THE provincial education department has owed Lukhanji Municipality a combined electricity bill of more than R700000 for four Section 21 schools in the Komani district.
The department, in a letter of which The Rep has a copy, recently pleaded with the local authority to reconnect the electricity with a letter of commitment to pay sent to the municipality’s head of administration.
The Rep reported on May 20 that pupils took to the street to protest after the Maria Louw hostel was plunged into darkness over unpaid bills.
Deputy director Daan Jonker said the department’s head office had not paid.
Last week, The Rep received a letter written by an official in the internal control unit at the provincial office, to Lukhanji municipal manager Nolwandle Gqiba.
In the letter, with subject “Affirmation of the commitment to pay Queenstown schools electricity accounts and request to (re)connect electricity”, a Mr Mashalaba confirmed four schools owed Lukhanji.
He said the office of the chief financial officer HJ Isaacs was making every effort to pay with the date specified as May 20 with proof of payment to be sent on May 23.
The Rep was informed Maria Louw, with a monthly electricity bill of R30000, only received R74000 a year for electricity.
Komani education department district director Nkosinathi Godlo said the letter from the province was written after the district’s intervention.
“The problem is that the schools get less money than they should. There were more schools that should have been disconnected but, through our intervention, were spared.”
Three of the schools affected were Nonesi Public Primary School, Van Coller Primary School and Maria Louw. The fourth school could not be independently verified.
Provincial education department communications and customer care director Loyiso Pulumani and spokesman Mali Mtima failed to respond to e-mailed questions.
Van Coller and Nonesi confirmed power had been restored after negotiations with Lukhanji, while Maria Louw principal Robert Smith said the power was restored last Wednesday.
He could not confirm whether the account had been paid.
Lukhanji communications manager Fundile Feketshane did not respond to questions sent last week.