The Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality (EMLM) is expected to make a R163m payment towards the overall Eskom debt of R309m by December 10 to avert the looming power cuts.
Of the R309m owed to the power utility, R146m is a historical debt which the local authority agreed last year to pay at R20m quarterly, but failed to do so.
The R163m payment required by Eskom in 40 days following the two parties meeting recently, is the municipality’s current account, which accumulates interest at 30% each month of non-payment.
EMLM mayor Luleka Gubhula indicated they would try to collect some money from those who were owing, so that in their next meeting with Eskom they would offer them a certain amount of money to avoid the power cuts.
“We are in continuous engagements with Eskom to ensure we avoid electricity interruptions at all costs. Our plan is to attend our second meeting with a sum of money to offer Eskom. This money will come from our equitable share and we will start cutting electricity to those who owe us as a means of collecting some revenue.”
Gubhula said government departments, businesses and households which owed would be given notices informing them of the cuts if they failed to pay the municipality in a specified period.
“The MEC for co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) Xolile Nqatha confirmed he wrote to national treasury to have our equitable share released. The release of the funds was based on us implementing the provisions of the finance recovery plan which we are doing, hence we are banking on those funds to assist in the matter. We are not sure when the money will be deposited to our account but we are expecting R180m.
“We will serve indebted government departments with seven-day notices to give them a chance to pay and if that period elapses we switch them off. We will also switch off businesses and households which owe and thereby steal electricity, even though this is something we hate to do.”
The mayor said if they switched off the consumers in arrears, they would have to pay a certain amount towards their debt and a reconnection fee before the supply would be restored.
“The combined debt owed to the municipality is about R800m. We are also looking for a bail-out from national and provincial government for our historical debt. When the three erstwhile municipalities were amalgamated in 2016, they already had a combined Eskom debt of about R100m. Hence we will ask for assistance from government to at least pay off the debt from the old municipalities, so we can pay the debt incurred by EMLM,” said the mayor.
Gubhula said when cutting off consumers they would not be lenient to those who stole electricity because some residents who had stolen were arrogant about the theft and would speak about it in public.
“Cutting people off is our last resort, but it is something that must be done. The majority of our debt is caused by people and businesses who steal power and abuse the resource. We will not be lenient to those people, including government departments. We were initially reluctant to cut hospitals off, but if that is what must happen for them to pay their debt, we will cut their power.”
Gubhula urged all those who owed the municipality to make payment arrangements as soon as possible so that everyone would enjoy the summer holidays with the lights on.