Eskom threatened to cut electricity supply but there have been no power cuts since
ESKOM has been accused of trying to manipulate residents into putting pressure on local municipalities to pay outstanding debts to the power utility by threatening to cut the power supply.
On Wednesday morning Eskom carried out its threat to cut the power supply to the Tsantsabane Municipality in Postmasburg, switching off the power to the town from 6am to 8am.
“However, there were no cuts in the evening on Wednesday and yesterday morning there was also uninterrupted electricity,” a resident of the town and DA councillor, Mimi Swart, said.
“The uncertainty is extremely disruptive,” Swart said. “Many businesses anticipated the cuts on Wednesday afternoon, after being caught unawares in the morning, and gave their staff time off but then nothing happened. Yesterday morning there were also no cuts but we don’t know what to expect going forward.
“It seems like Eskom is using the public to put pressure on municipalities to pay their debts. No-one knows what is happening and everyone is extremely agitated.”
Eskom had originally threatened to cut the town’s electricity supply from Monday, together with three other local municipalities in the Province, including Siyancuma, Renosterberg and Thembelihle. None of the other three have experienced any cuts as yet.
Acting municipal manager of the Tsantsabane Municipality, Julius Theys, said yesterday that the municipality was also not aware of what was going on.
“Eskom has refused to speak to us unless we put down R20 million. As I have said before, we can get a loan and do that, but what happens next month when we cannot meet the payments as arranged and we default again. Then we will be in the same situation.”
The town owes the power utility R77 million, which has been outstanding since 2014.
Irate residents in the town have pointed out that only a part of the town, the traditional white areas, buys electricity from the municipality, while other consumers purchase directly from Eskom.
“The people who buy from the municipality pay their accounts regularly and their money forms the basis of the municipality’s income. However, they are the only ones who are affected by the cuts,” Swart explained.
She added that the income derived from the sale of electricity to the few residents, who were purchasing their power from the municipality, was too little to cover the local authority’s expenses.
“The money they are paying is not being paid over to Eskom but being used to cover the cost of infrastructure and other costs in the Tsantsabane/Postmasburg area.
“The situation is unacceptable, unfair and has created an enormous amount of unhappiness and a reluctance among some residents to pay their accounts.”
Eskom’s only response to media inquiries yesterday was a standard: “We are still in the process of engaging the affected defaulting municipalities in the Northern Cape. Eskom remains mindful of the impact supply interruptions will have on electricity consumers, thus the interruption of supply to municipalities for non-payment is always implemented as a last resort after failure to reach an agreement.”
According to an earlier statement issued by Eskom, of the 62 payment arrangements made last year with defaulting municipalities, only 20 had honoured their agreements by the end of May this year.
“The situation deteriorated during June with overdue debt increasing to R11.54bn,” the statement said.
“As a result, Eskom’s Executive Committee took a decision to reinitiate the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA) process. Eskom issued 58 default letters (notices of intent) in June 2017, and these were followed up with 22 public notices published in July and August.”
“The public notices in the local newspapers give ordinary citizens and the business community the opportunity to provide input to Eskom, but also to engage their municipality on why it is not paying the Eskom account.”
It added that the interruption of supply to municipalities was an action of last resort and only implemented after all other mechanisms had been exhausted and failed to deliver the required outcomes.
“Eskom is sensitive to the impact that this will have on the economy, local business, and the public at large and, for this reason, has extensively engaged with stakeholders, affected parties, the media, and others to the build-up of this and also understands the impact that its actions will have on members of the public (individual and/or business), and as such, we plan to focus on implementing interruptions rather than complete disconnection.”
According to Eskom, the supply would be interrupted during peak hours on weekdays from 6am to 8am and 5pm to 7.30pm and on weekends from 8.30am to 11am and 3pm to 5.30pm.