Home News Sol community forum eyes court bid to buy electricity directly from Eskom

Sol community forum eyes court bid to buy electricity directly from Eskom

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Eskom has warned Sol Plaatje Municipality that should it continue to default on its payments, the power utility will implement bulk electricity interruptions

File image: Pixabay

THE SOL Plaatje Community Forum is prepared to approach the courts to enable Sol Plaatje Municipality residents to purchase electricity directly from Eskom.

This follows an urgent letter that was addressed to Northern Cape Premier Dr Zamani Saul last week, regarding the local authority’s overdue electricity bill.

Eskom has warned that should the municipality continue to default on payments, the power utility would resort to implementing bulk electricity interruptions.

The secretary of the Sol Plaatje Community Forum, Tumelo Mosikare, said on Tuesday that court action would require the assistance of residents.

“We need to stop the abuse of ratepayers as the majority of residents are making use of prepaid metres. Paying ratepayers cannot be punished with load shedding and bulk electricity interruptions,” said Mosikare.

In the mid-year budget and performance assessment 2020/21, the Sol Plaatje Municipality owes Eskom R130 million.

The municipality has a current account of R43 million that is due on February 3. It has an arrears debt of R87 million.

It indicated that it had settled its November account of R42 million and debt instalment of R12.4 million on December 29.

According to Eskom, Sol Plaatje Municipality has not been able to honour a payment agreement that was entered into last year, where its December bill is still outstanding due to cash flow problems.

It advised the premier that while the municipality has “historically been a good payer for Eskom services”, it had over the last year shown a “negative trend” in its ability to service its Eskom account.

“In 2020, Eskom entered into a payment agreement with the Sol Plaatje Municipality in good faith to cover its arrears debt. Eskom has since been informed that the municipality cannot meet its obligation to pay the December 2020 Eskom bill. The municipality has cited cash flow challenges that have resulted in it contravening its payment agreement with Eskom.”

Eskom stated that non-payment of services rendered to the Sol Plaatje Municipality posed an increasing financial risk to the power utility.

“Eskom has no choice but to proceed with its credit management processes to limit the financial risk created by the non-payment of the municipality’s bills. This may include termination of the supply agreement by the interruption of electricity supply to the Sol Plaatje Municipality.”

It requested the premier to “urgently intervene” at Sol Plaatje Municipality and other defaulting Northern Cape municipalities to ensure payment of the outstanding amounts that were due to Eskom.

Sol Plaatje Municipality spokesperson Sello Matsie said on Tuesday that they had noted the correspondence on social media between Saul and an Eskom executive.

“We have never made it a secret that we have defaulted on both electricity supply and water resources with our suppliers. A number of initiatives have been embarked upon to try and recover debts from our consumers,” said Matsie.

He indicated that the municipal debt owed by consumers, including general households, businesses and the public sector, was in excess of R2 billion.

“We have been in corporate discussions for a while to recover money owed by the public sector. Some households have had their electricity supply blocked … there are massive challenges because many are unable to pay for services. The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened an already bad situation.”

Matsie added that bulk consumers who were making use of solar energy had reduced the municipality’s revenue generated through the sale of electricity.

“We are looking at stringent measures to reduce usage and to ensure that those that can afford to pay are made to pay. We call on consumers to do the right thing and pay for their consumption.”

He said that the Sol Plaatje acting municipal manager, chief financial officer and finance officials had met virtually with Eskom on February 3 to explain their situation and draft the way forward on the matter.

“We were given until February 9 to table a short-term plan for payment while also looking at an option for Eskom debt owed to Sol Plaatje Municipality to be offset in this regard.”

The Premier’s Office said it would respond to media enquiries on Wednesday.