Eskom VS Emalahleni: Consumers Lost

Eskom rejected the local municipality’s proposals and flicked the switch this week.

Emergency plans are in place to minimise the disruptions and ensure that the water supply is not affected.
Residents are urged to make provisions where they can for the disruption and especially consider travelling routes and times as most traffic lights will be out during these periods.

Mr Theo van Vuuren (municipal manager), Cllr Lindiwe Ntshalintshali (executive mayor), Mrs Jabulani Hlatshwayo (chief financial officer) and her team met with the power house to offer a ‘catch-up plan’ to try and pay all the outstanding money by the end of May.

Instead of accepting the proposal, Eskom rejected it and set a new target for the municipality.
Eskom now wants the municipality to pay R277-million before Thursday, February 16.

Mr Kingdom Mabuza, municipal spokesperson is hopeful that this can be achieved,

“It is still possible for us to meet this but only if those owing the municipality make a serious effort to settle their arrears. Our attempts and requests for this during the past period saw a marginal improvement in arrears settlements and for the first time since 2012 th‎e total outstanding arrears decreased. Should especially the business sector take this call to heart we will be able to achieve this target.”

He said the team will not give up so easily and is continuing with the option presented to Eskom to cover a large component of the debt in a few weeks from now.

From Monday cut offs accelerated. A lot of illegal distribution operations were discovered where residents are tapping electricity illegally and then selling it.

Criminal charges will be laid against the perpetrators.
The municipality is showing no more mercy. Churches are next in line to be cut off. They owe the municipality in the region of close to R4-milion.

There are also government departments and townhouse complexes that will be cut before the end of this week.

“Businesses still owe us a massive R280-million and believe that by declaring disputes they don’t have to pay. This is not helping and perhaps it is time to publish their details,” said Mabuza.

On a lighter side Mabuza mentioned that the municipality are engaging in serious discussions on creating alternative cheaper electricity supply to save cost and to prevent the monopolistic trap we find ourselves in with Eskom.

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The opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, wrote to the Mpumalanga Health MEC, Gillion Mashego, urging him to ensure that patients do not suffer during the interruption to the supply of bulk electricity.

“MEC Mashego must make the people’s right to life his number one priority and in doing so ensure that all affected health care facilities have functioning and reliable generators should the lights go off,” said Jane Sithole MPL and DA spokesperson on health.

DA spokesperson on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), James Masango MPL called on the MEC for CoGTA Refilwe Mtshweni to summon these defaulting municipalities to appear before the Portfolio Committee to present their credit control.

“These municipalities must present their debt collection policies, as well as their plans for paying off their outstanding debt. The MEC must do whatever it takes to make sure that lights stay on in these municipalities as electricity is an essential service, and residents should not be made to suffer for the incompetence of municipal managers who are not maintaining proper financial controls. The MEC must impose a recovery plan on the affected municipalities, or assume responsibility for the financial administration of these municipalities,” was Masango’s advice.

Residents were livid and did not hesitate to show their disappointment in the municipality.
Glen and Gayle Murray said the municipality should start cutting their over inflated salaries in half. The couple said they will not even start to discuss bonuses and transport and petrol allowances.

“Ag they keep threatening to do it. Just do it and get finished. In eMalahleni we hardly have water or electricity so won’t make much of a difference,” said Kym Coetzee.

“Just cut it. Now municipal is taking advantage of the people who are actually paying electricity just to cover the balance. How can I pay a bill of R1 000 on December and suddenly its R6 000 for January? Don’t try to rip us off just cut the bloody thing its better we buy generators and solar panels,” said Jackson Dlangamandla.

There bulk interruptions of electricity to Churchill -, KwaGuga-, Doornpoort – and Witbank DS/Municipal substations are starting on Thursday, February 16.

From Mondays to Fridays, the electricity will be disrupted from 06:00 to 08:00 and 17:00 to 19:30.
On Saturdays and Sundays there will be no electricity between 08:30 to 11:00 and 15:00 to 17:30.

Eskom warns that notwithstanding the above proposed indicative times for the interruption, the power house may, upon 15 calendar days’ notice, disconnect electricity entirely and indefinitely should the electricity debt situation not improve.

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  AUTHOR
Zita Goldswain
Assistant Editor

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