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Towns spared Christmas power cuts

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Eskom has agreed to temporarily suspend the bulk electricity interruptions at Dikgatlong Municipality which supplies power to Barkly West and Delportshoop.

ESKOM has agreed to temporarily suspend the bulk electricity interruptions at Dikgatlong Municipality – which supplies power to Barkly West and Delportshoop – that were scheduled to start over the festive season.

Power interruptions would have commenced on December 19 until Christmas Day, after which the interruptions in the municipal area would be intensified.

A notice to cut the electricity supply was issued by Eskom in October, due to non-payment, where an outstanding amount of

R97.3 million is owed by Dikgatlong Municipality, dating back to 2014.

In a letter dated November 18, which was addressed to the chairperson and legal representative of the Barkly West Residents’ Association, Clara de Bruyn, Eskom indicated that final notices would be published on December 6.

The Barkly West Residents’ Association will return to court on January 30 next year, in a contempt of court application against Dikgatlong Municipality for failing to implement a financial turnaround strategy.

A petition signed by the communities of Dikgatlong, Gong Gong, Longlands, Tidimalo and Windsorton in 2018, requested that the municipality be placed under administration due to maladministration and failure to provide basic services.

The court order instructed that Dikgatlong Municipality should be dissolved if it failed to implement a recovery plan to ensure that it meets its financial obligations.

The Barkly West Residents’ Association requested Eskom to suspend the electricity interruptions until the contempt of court order application was finalised in the Northern Cape High Court.

Independent councillor at Dikgatlong Municipality, Mentley Bezuidenhout, said that an amount of R24 million would be allocated to Eskom through a special adjustment budget to avert power interruptions.

“During the special council meeting that sat on November 10, it was agreed that R24 million would be allocated to Sedibeng Water to offset debts. The water supply to Delportshoop was cut because of debts owed to the water board,” he added.

Bezuidenhout said that the municipality had yet to improve revenue collection to improve the debt situation and restore financial stability.

“I proposed that prepaid electricity meters be installed and that the old debts be written off. Those in arrears should make payment arrangements. The fact that the refuse collection services have not been in operation has resulted in illegal dumping sites. The municipality has to start delivering services.”

Provincial Treasury had informed the Dikgatlong municipal manager in October that the municipality had failed to adopt a funded budget for the 2019/20 financial year.

The municipal manager was advised to take the necessary steps to rectify the situation before the end of October, through a special adjustment budget, and pay its creditors as a matter of urgency, failing which provincial intervention would be instituted.

It pointed out that non-compliance with the Municipal Finance Management Act was not only “disappointing” but that it could have “adverse consequences if left uncorrected”.

It stated that an unfunded budget indicated that the financial plan of the municipality was not adequate to give effect to the priorities identified by the municipality.

“It is also a leading indicator of financial distress … and cash flow challenges.”

Should the municipality fail to implement the corrective steps, Treasury warned that it would withhold the equitable share that was due to be allocated on December 2.

Dikgatlong municipal manager Kagiso Modise yesterday indicated that they were still in the process of formulating a payment agreement with Eskom.

“We are confident that there will be no electricity interruptions next month. We have also been in discussions with Provincial Treasury regarding funds that need to be paid to Eskom,” said Modise.

Eskom spokesperson Stefanie Jansen van Rensburg stated that no payment agreement had been reached with Dikgatlong Municipality as yet.

“Eskom has informed the attorneys representing the Barkly West and Delportshoop residents’ ratepayers association that we will not be proceeding with the contemplated interruption of supply based on the contempt of court order against Dikgatlong Municipality. An official notice regarding this will be published in the week of December 6.”

She added that the total debt owed by Dikgatlong Municipality as at the end of September was R97 million.