R10m aid to pay for power

The Chris Hani District Municipality (CHDM) is set to cough up R10m to aid Inxuba Yethemba Local Municipality to pay off its Eskom debt, which amounts to R98.7m in total.

This after the power utility recently published a schedule to switch power on and off for areas under its jurisdiction, including Cradock and Middelburg.

Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality (EMLM), where the district municipality’s headquarters are, is likely to face the same fate as it has failed to pay its current account following last year’s payment plan agreement with Eskom.

EMLM agreed to this payment plan to pay its arrears and overall debt, but according to a confidential document from Eskom seen by The Rep, the local authority has not been paying its current account.

The document indicates that as of April 9 this year, Enoch Mgijima’s current account was at R70,4m. The debt is likely to have increased if the local authority has not made any payment to date.

CHDM executive mayor Wongama Gela said the R10m offered to Inxuba Yethemba was not intended to set a precedent to other local municipalities with financial constraints.

“I understand that as the district municipality we have to play a supportive role to our municipalities, financially and otherwise. We are not inviting other financially distressed municipalities to come and ask for money.

“The problems in local authorities are much deeper than their Eskom accounts. All municipalities in the same situation would not only require us to assist, but also the department of co-operative governance and traditional traditional affairs (Cogta) and the ruling party. This whole situation speaks to the question of the future of provinces and whether local municipalities are able to financially sustain themselves.”

Gela indicated that as part of the process to assist Inxuba Yethemba, they were drafting an agreement which would be co-signed by Cogta and the provincial treasury.

EMLM has a heavy scourge of electricity theft which has significantly contributed to its debt, and the failure of government departments, local businesses and residents to pay for services.

Last week izinyoka were reported by Newvale residents to be illegally connecting power at Aloe T informal settlement. When The Rep arrived, the perpetrators were connecting wires and digging in an open field that was, according to the residents, meant to be a playground for children.

Speaking to The Rep, the residents, who did not want to be named, said members of the informal settlement had tried to illegally connect electricity from a pole last year. “We have tried to stop them several times but these people make threats and there are rumours that they were given the go-ahead by the councillor himself. This is uncalled for because our children play on these grounds. Our country is a mess because of such people,” the residents said.

Ward 12 councillor Bulelani Mgoqi refused to comment on the matter, indicating that questions should be directed to the municipality.

Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality spokesperson, Gcobani Msindwana, said the municipality had, in the past, visited the area where they called a meeting with former executive mayor Sisisi Tolashe and councillor Mgoqi where a similar incident had taken place. “We visited the area and these people are the same ones who connected on someone’s premises in House S129. They are violent and vulgar. They told us bluntly that they needed power and would do that because they were desperate. One of our men was there this week and they do not want to see municipal vehicles near the connection. The last time we asked the police to escort us, but the rudeness of the community members was beyond our control. We plead with the people of Newvale to desist from this illegal practice as this is dangerous and is punishable by law.” Msindwana said they did not want to endanger the lives of municipal employees and would try to engage with the community in a peaceful manner.

“We plead with the people of Newvale to visit their ward councillor and request him to convene a meeting with the municipality to find an amicable solution. What they are doing is unacceptable and illegal.”

Inxuba Yethemba mayor Raymond Shweni said one of that municipality’s biggest problems was the “overwhelming” number of contract workers who came with particular demands.

Eskom spokesman Zama Mpondwana said the power utility had temporarily suspended its intention to interrupt the bulk electricity supply to Cradock and Middelburg, after the receipt of court papers interdicting it from cutting the electricity.

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