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Full-scale blackouts loom

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The DA pointed out yesterday that Khai-Ma and Gamagara also faced interruptions after July 12, if payment was not made

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CONCERNS have been expressed that the Northern Cape is heading for a full-scale blackout as municipalities across the Province fail to pay their Eskom debts.

Eskom announced on Tuesday this week that after seven days of scheduled electricity supply interruptions due to non-payment, the Renosterberg Local Municipality had not paid the amounts required for Eskom to suspend the interruptions.

As a result, supply interruptions were intensified on Wednesday.

Eskom spokesperson, Stephanie Jansen van Rensburg, said yesterday that scheduled supply interruptions were implemented on June 27 due to the failure by Renosterberg Local Municipality to honour its Eskom account for the bulk supply of electricity.

Phillipstown, Petrusville and Vanderkloof are affected by the interruptions.

As a result of the intensified interruptions, the municipality will not have electricity from 6am to 9am and again from 5pm to 8.30pm on weekdays and from 8.30am to 12 noon and 3pm to 7pm on Saturdays and Sundays.

If no agreement is reached by this coming Tuesday (July 10) a daily 14-hour interruption will be executed, Eskom warned.

The DA pointed out yesterday that Khai-Ma and Gamagara also faced interruptions after July 12, if payment was not made.

“Power cuts in Emthanjeni and Kai !Garib were also narrowly averted after last-minute payments were made,” DA provincial leader, Andrew Louw, said, pointing out further that the lack of electricity provision boiled down to the mismanagement of municipal funds.

“At the last known date, municipalities in the Northern Cape owed Eskom over R840 million, with Kai !Garib leading the pack, owing over R126 million.”

According to a reply to a parliamentary question by Coghsta, 10 municipalities in the Province have signed payment agreements with Eskom, while six municipalities have unsigned agreements with Eskom, Louw stated.

“Coghsta has further indicated that in conjunction with Provincial Treasury, they have established a Municipal Debt Steering Committee to deal with the issues of outstanding debt owed by municipalities to their creditors.”

He said the DA, however, had not seen any results from these initiatives. “Payment agreements, signed or unsigned, will mean nothing as long they are not taken seriously, not included in long-term financial planning and not implemented.

“The ongoing last-minute bailouts of municipalities by Coghsta is also not sustainable and will not serve to keep the lights on.”

Louw pointed out that aside from the debt owed to Eskom, municipalities in the Northern Cape also owed water boards at least R148 million, the auditor-general over R16 million and the Northern Cape Department of Transport, Safety and Liaison over R139 million.

“It is clear that there is not a plan to resolve outstanding debt owed to creditors by municipalities nor the political will to keep the lights on.”

During its ordinary Provincial Executive Committee (PEC) meeting earlier this week, the ANC also expressed concern regarding the blackouts initiated by Eskom in most of the municipalities in the Province due to debt owed to Eskom by municipalities.

“The PEC has resolved that as part of the ongoing engagements, an ANC delegation, led by the provincial chairperson, will engage with the CEO or the chairperson of Eskom on this matter. The officials will also request an audience with Pravin Gordhan as well as Jeff Radebe.”

The PEC also resolved to ensure that Northern Cape municipalities are properly managed and services are delivered, pointing out that stable municipalities translated to the delivering of better services.

The PEC also reflected on the electricity tariff increase in the Sol Plaatje Municipality.

“The PEC noted that although the municipality has done great work in terms of lowering the cost of electricity for our people there still seems to be unrest in our community,” a statement issued after the committee meeting said.

“The PEC has mandated the municipality to further consult with the communities on the matter and has implored ANC councillors as well as ANC branch leadership to convene meetings with their constituencies.”

The committee which used to be responsible for monitoring and providing support to municipalities with governance challenges will also be revived. The committee will be led by the deputy provincial chairperson, as well the MEC responsible for Co-operative Governance, Human Settlement and Traditional Affairs, Bentley Vass, the Office of the Premier, Salga and Provincial Treasury.

“This committee, together with the legislature and governance sub-committee of the ANC, will on a monthly basis report to the PEC on the state of municipalities.”