Eskom's struggle with debt is partly the fault of government, as some departments and municipalities are not paying the entity for electricity provided, Deputy President David Mabuza has said.
The deputy president was on Wednesday giving oral replies to questions posed by members of the National Council of Provinces.
He was responding to a question posed by ANC MP Thamsanqa Dodovu about steps government is taking to ensure debts are settled at municipalities and public entities, like Eskom.
Mabuza said there is a culture of "non-payment" in the country which has led to rising municipal debts. As a result of residents not paying municipalities for services, municipalities in turn have become indebted to Eskom.
So far National Treasury has advised the deputy president that the aggregate municipal debt as at June 30, stood at R165.5bn. Municipalities' arrears to Eskom stand at R19.9bn, of this amount R9.7bn is owed by national and provincial departments.
"Part of the challenge we must confront as a nation is a culture of non-payment," he said, before adding that Eskom's problems were not solely created by itself. "We are partly to blame, some of us are not paying it (Eskom) when we owe it," Mabuza said.
As for debt owed by state-owned enterprises, Mabuza said the Department of Public Enterprises and National Treasury is working on a strategy to reduce the reliance of these public entities on government guarantees.
He called on government officials to make debt repayments on stipulated time frames. "Accounting officers and executing authorities must take measures against officials in their departments not complying with the Public Finance Management Act," he said.
Mabuza said that the laws processed by Parliament must be upheld. "We can't sit here and process laws ourselves that we don’t respect… We must be the first to uphold laws," he said.
'Struggle is over'
Mabuza explained that during the struggle the ANC encouraged citizens not to pay for services, in order to collapse the system of apartheid. But the time has come to encourage people to start paying for services.
"The struggle is over. At the time we were fighting a system. We wanted to pull down a system so we encouraged people not to pay. Some of you here were part of the campaign," he told MPs. "Now we must come with the same push for people to pay."