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No intervention plan from dept on power cuts

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Over weekends the electricity supply will be cut from 8.30am until 11am and from 3pm until 5.30pm in the evenings

File photo: INLSA

WHILE TWO more municipalities in the Northern Cape – the Gamagara and Tsantsabane municipalities – face looming electricity cuts that will be extended to 14 hours per day as from April 12, the Department of Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (Coghsta) has yet to outline any intervention plans.

No clear answer was available from the department yesterday as all officials, including the HoD, are attending exco meetings for the entire week.

Eskom yesterday issued notice of electricity cuts as well as extended cuts due to the failure of the two municipalities to honour their payment agreements.

Since April 2014, Tsantsabane Local Municipality is R85 million in arrears while the Gamagara Municipality owes Eskom R65 million, dating back to May 2016.

The electricity at these municipalities will, as from March 29 to April 5, be interrupted from 6am until 8am and in the evenings from 5pm until 7.30pm, during the week.

Over weekends the electricity supply will be cut from 8.30am until 11am and from 3pm until 5.30pm in the evenings.

From April 6 to 11, these hours will be extended from 6am until 9am and from 5pm until 8.30pm during the week. The power interruptions will be scheduled from 8.30am until 12 pm and from 3pm until 7pm on Saturdays and Sundays .

As from April 12, the power blackout will start at 6am and continue until 8pm every day until a payment agreement has been reached.

Yesterday Eskom announced that they would not be pulling the plug at Ubuntu Municipality which would have been affected by electricity cuts as from March 19.

Eskom spokesperson in the Free State and Northern Cape, Stefanie Jansen van Rensburg, said the Ubuntu Municipality had entered into a new payment agreement for the R41 million that was owed by them.

“Richmond and Loxton would have been affected by these scheduled interruptions.

“Should the Ubuntu Local Municipality not honour the payment agreement entered into, the implementation of scheduled supply interruptions will resume with 48 hours’ notice.”

DA constituency head of Lohatla, Melinda Hattingh, said businesses in the Gamagara district were at risk of having to close their doors at the start of the Easter weekend.

“The MEC for Coghsta, Bentley Vass, must place this municipality under administration and facilitate a bold and urgent intervention into the Gamagara Municipality’s failure to fulfill its outstanding payment, exceeding R65 million, to Eskom.”

She pointed out that the payment agreement entered into to prevent power cuts was “never sustainable given the dire financial state” of the Gamagara Municipality.

Billing

“The municipality is operating at a loss, largely due to its failed billing system. As far back as 2016 the municipality blamed a malware attack on its billing system for its failure to pay Eskom.

“To date, no progress has been made in addressing this dysfunctional system. Residents, who are willing to pay millions in outstanding municipal debt, cannot do so because of the lack of available accurate billing information.”

She added that the R14 million owed to Sedibeng Water had not been verified. “This amount could be more, as no proof has been produced of the agreement. The Gamagara Municipality also owes R62 million to Anglo American after it lost the court case against the disastrous property evaluations and R7.6 million to the John Taolo Gaetsewe district municipality.

Hattingh stated that the municipality was in deep financial trouble.

“It cannot operate as a going concern (and) desperately requires outside assistance to get back on track. We will also request that disciplinary action be taken against municipal officials who, despite having failed dismally in managing the finances of the municipality, are still in control of the purse strings.”