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Eskom warns Sol

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“This is the amount we must get in every month in order to pay Eskom, salaries and the water bill and these are our first priorities.”

THE CASH-strapped Sol Plaatje Municipality has been warned by Eskom that the electricity supply to the city will be cut if it fails to meet its commitments to the power utility.

This is according to the acting municipal manager, Thami Mabija, who was addressing SA Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) members, who had gathered at the civic centre yesterday morning after the local authority stated that salaries would only be paid on the last day of the month due to “serious cash flow challenges”.

Mabija told the workers that the local authority had not been paid for two months. “There is an arrangement with Eskom to pay an additional R14 million over and above the monthly account.”

He added that Eskom had threatened the municipality that if it failed to meet its payment arrangements, the power utility would cut the electricity to the city.

According to Mabija, the municipality’s total bill for Eskom, salaries and bulk water amounted to R110 million.

“This is the amount we must get in every month in order to pay Eskom, salaries and the water bill and these are our first priorities.”

Samwu-affiliated workers were unhappy after they had received a memorandum that salaries would only be paid on Friday, January 31.

“Management is currently looking at the request to pay salaries by this Friday,” municipal spokesperson Sello Matsie said yesterday.

Another issue raised by the workers was that of the limit of 30 hours placed on overtime.

“Most of the issues raised during yesterday’s consultation will be referred to the Local Labour Forum for discussion,” Matsie added.

Mabija, however, told the workers that the additional hours worked over and above the 30 hours limit for November and December would be paid, but he was unable to say when the payment would be made.

He warned, however, that from this month, overtime would be limited to 30 hours a month as the municipality struggled to cut back on its salaries bill.

A proper overtime policy will also be drawn up.

The Sol Plaatje Municipality confirmed yesterday that the local authority had not paid Eskom in July and August 2019, resulting in a total outstanding account of

R153 million (excluding interest).

According to Matsie, the latest payment arrangement on this outstanding debt was currently

R14.1 million per month “and up and till December 31, 2019 we have not defaulted on it”.

Matsie added that the municipality currently still owed Eskom R84.8 million, including R6.3 million interest, on the default total of R153 million. “This is besides the Eskom bill of around R43.4 million that needs to be paid.”

He stated further that the total bill for Eskom, Water Affairs and salaries was on average around R132 million, which includes the payment arrangement with Eskom and Water Affairs on the debt owed.

Meanwhile, the Northern Cape Department of Education has confirmed that the electricity at two schools in the city that have outstanding bills to Sol Plaatje Municipality were cut on Friday.

The municipality has warned that an aggressive collections policy will be implemented to obtain monies owing.

Education department spokesperson Geoffrey van der Merwe said yesterday that the department was fully aware of the arrears owed by schools to the Sol Plaatje Municipality on their electricity accounts.

“Most of this relates to historical debt, the discovery of double meters in one yard, and the sharing/using of one meter by more than one institution whereby schools are held liable.”

Van der Merwe said engagements were well under way with the nine affected schools that are at risk of being disconnected.

“MEC Mac Jack met with the nine schools last week and will schedule a meeting with the Sol Plaatje Municipality soon to reach an arrangement on the outstanding arrears owed by schools to the municipality.

“At this stage the electricity at two schools was cut off on Friday and we do hope that this matter can be resolved as speedily as possible,” Van der Merwe said.