DURBAN – KWAZULU-NATAL municipalities owe millions of rand to power utility Eskom and at least three are facing disconnections from the electricity grid.
Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Sipho Hlomuka held an emergency meeting with Eskom and the Mpofana (Mooi River) Municipality yesterday in a bid to prevent the utility from cutting power to the municipality.
The municipality is said to owe Eskom close to R120million and stands to be disconnected by July.
The Mthonjaneni (Melmoth) and Ulundi Municipalities are also in danger of having their power cut.
Next door to Mpofana is Inkosi Langalibalele Municipality (Estcourt), said to owe about R100m.
Theft and non-payment for electricity is the cause of the spiralling debt owed by the municipalities.
The Mercury understands that Eskom briefed Hlomuka on their challenge with Mpofana.
“Eskom told the MEC they no longer trusted Mpofana as it made arrangements to pay before and never honoured them. The MEC asked that another meeting be held on Tuesday where a new payment plan will be tabled. I’m not sure whether Eskom would accept that new payment plan,” said DA councillor Nhlalayenza Ndlovu, who was part of the meeting.
Ndlovu said: “Eskom made an announcement recently to say they would be disconnecting the municipality. One of the factors is that there are some businesses that are under-charged as part of a deal to invite them to have their businesses in Mooi River.
“But the biggest challenge is the community of Bruntville township. They’re just not paying for services. As the opposition, we’ve pushed for disconnections but have been blocked by the ruling party.”
Ndlovu added that they felt for the ratepayers and businesses who might be affected, and that job losses might follow power cuts.
Mthembeni Majola, IFP councillor and exco member in Inkosi Langalibalele Municipality, said the last report tabled before council last month showed they owed Eskom around R95m.
“We have an arrangement with Eskom and we’ve managed to keep to it and therefore have not received any warning that we’ll face power cuts.
“The municipality is making a loss on electricity and that’s because we’re not treating what we do as running a business but like a ‘Sassa department’ where we’re providing things for free,” Majola said.
Hlomuka said earlier that it was important that they intervene in municipalities, especially in Mpofana, to keep the lights on.
He said municipalities must improve their revenue collection.
“It’s clear that our municipalities can’t continue to provide services unless they collect revenue from those who benefit from these services.”