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Northern Cape businesss face dark times

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Eskom is at liberty to cut power supply entirely and indefinitely

File photo: Reuters

BODIES at funeral parlours in several Northern Cape towns could rot in the mortuary fridges should Eskom implement electricity cuts at six municipalities in the Province as from today.

Businesses in the affected towns have also indicated that they are still in the dark as to whether they will need to buy generators as they are hoping that an agreement will be reached with Eskom before electricity cuts are implemented from today.

However, negotiations to keep the lights on have so far been unsuccessful, after Eskom last week announced that it would cut the power supply at Kai Garib, Siyathemba, Siynacuma, Renosterberg, Tsantsabane and Thembelihle municipalities as they were defaulting on their payment agreements.

The electricity will be cut during the week from 6am to 8am in the morning and 5pm to 7.30pm in the evening.

Over weekends, the power cuts will take place from 8.30am until 11am in the morning and from 3pm to 5pm in the evening.

Eskom warned that should the situation not improve, it was at liberty to cut the power supply “entirely and indefinitely”.

A funeral undertaker that has six branches in the Northern Cape, stated that they could not afford to switch off their mortuary fridges.

“The fridges have to be kept at a constant temperature according to the accepted standards and practices, to preserve the corpses. It is already hot and we cannot switch off the fridges at any time,” the funeral undertaker said.

“We were also not informed about the electricity cuts and feel that it is unfair to expect businesses to pay for electricity as well as generators and diesel. We could understand if we were behind with our payments but we pay our rates and taxes on time every month.”

The manager of a funeral parlour in the Province pointed out that most of its customers contacted them on the landline.

“The landline will not operate if the electricity is cut and those are our peak times. The power shortages also damage our electrical equipment and computers and it is a huge inconvenience to keep switching it on and off. I wonder if we will have a water supply if the electrical pumps from the reservoir are not working. We cannot operate the business without water as we need to wash the bodies.”

She added that they were currently storing five bodies in their fridges at a branch in Postmasburg.

“Over weekends all nine of our fridges are filled to capacity. We will not be able to close our doors for business as clients come in to pay their policies.”

The owner of Werda Supermarket, Herman Fourie, meanwhile pointed out that they were the only supermarket in Philipstown.

“If all our groceries and produce go off, the whole town will be without any supplies. I have a cold room, fridges and freezers that need to be maintained. ”

He indicated that his current generator did not have the capacity to keep all his equipment and machinery running.

“I will have to spend at least R20 000 to R30 000 on a generator and incur extra expenses on diesel. We will have to reschedule the bakery times as we bake 200 loaves of bread at the time the electricity is scheduled to be cut in the morning.

“Our operating hours are from 6am until 8pm and the power interruptions makes us more vulnerable to theft. We will also have to sell manually and cash may not be accurately accounted for at the tills. The banks will be offline which means that we cannot deposit or draw money while the cellphone signal also goes out of order when the electricity is cut.”

Fourie said that he had only by chance discovered that the power would be interrupted.

“No one notified me about the arrangements so I am not certain if negotiations will succeed in preventing the impending upheaval.”

The owner of Gariep Country Lodge in Prieska stated that he would have to purchase an extra generator in order to keep his guest house in business.

“I accommodate up to 14 guests per day and the times that the electricity will be cut will be of huge inconvenience as that is when they are getting ready in the morning or arrive at the guest house in the evenings. In this heat, our air conditioners will be out of order. I currently only have one generator and the one block of the guest house is on the other side of the street.”

Spokesperson for the provincial Department of Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (Coghsta), Xhanti Teki, stated that they had engaged with all six affected municipalities.

“This follows after the committee became aware that they had defaulted on the arrangements made with Eskom. Municipalities indicated that they are still willing to pay but cannot keep up with their current arrangements due to several issues, ranging from poor revenue collection and electricity loss,” said Teki.

He indicated that Coghsta and Provincial Treasury had attended the follow-up meeting that was arranged between Eskom and the respective municipalities on August 31.

“The team deliberated thoroughly on the issues raised by both Eskom and the municipalities, including proposals from municipalities on how they are going to pay. Proposals were due on September 1. All municipalities that attended the engagement committed to pay a portion of their arrears before the final notice was published on September 5, which was the initial final date for notice.”

Teki said that only Thembelihle, Siyathemba, Siyancuma and Kai Garib municipalities had submitted their proposals to Eskom on September 7.

“Their proposals were, however, rejected by the review committee as they were not backed by cash payment on arrears, hence the final notice was published for all six municipalities. Eskom also indicated that they are still open to negotiations with municipalities until the due date for electricity cut-off.”

Eskom national spokesperson, Khulu Phasiwe, encouraged the affected municipalities to make payments towards their outstanding debts before 6am on Monday in order to avert the scheduled power cuts.

“We realise that the municipalities in the Northern Cape are struggling to collect revenue. However, the arrears are increasing and the debts cannot accumulate indefinitely. They will have to make a substantial payment as well as submit a viable proposal to repay the balance of their debts.”