National power utility, Eskom, is determined to recoup costs from defaulting municipalities. The beleaguered power supplier has set its sight on two Free State municipalities, threating to cut them from the power grid should their debts not be settled immediately.
South Africa’s power supplier is struggling financially – that’s no secret. The state-owned enterprise (SOE) has been strangled by increasing debt, a striking workforce and accusations of gross mismanagement.
In an attempt to lighten the heavy financial load, Eskom has taken on the role of debt collector, tracking down defaulting municipalities and forcing them to cough up the cash.
Any debt collector worth their salt employs heavy-handed tactics to settle differences, and in this case, Eskom is no different; the power utility is threatening municipalities with rolling blackouts.
Correspondent have reported that two Free State municipalities, Tokologo and Nala, have left Eskom no other option. If the evasive municipalities do not settle their power bill by the Wednesday 18 July, they will be faced with power cuts lasting up to six hours a day.
But Eskom won’t stop there. If the disruption in electricity supply is not enough to convince municipalities to pay, they will be punished even further. In the event of non-payment, from 24 July the power supply will be cut for 14 hours a day, between 6 am and 8 pm.
How much do the municipalities owe Eskom?
Eskom is frustrated with the evasive manoeuvres employed by the defaulting municipalities. Both Tokologo and Nala entered into an agreement with Eskom on June 25, a day before the power utility was to begin its shutdown.
The municipalities promised to pay, but almost a month later, Eskom maintains it has not received full payment.
Eskom’s spokesperson, Khulu Phasiwe, commented on the issue of non-payment, saying:
“Since they failed to pay, we have to withdraw that product for that particular period we mentioned. Let’s put it this way, the only way for them to get themselves out of this situation is if they come with a huge sum of money.”
The huge sum of money Phasiwe refers to is the outstanding debt totalling R30 million incurred by Tokologo municipality.
Phasiwe says that it’s an all or nothing deal – spurned by broken payment promises, the power company has adopted a hardnosed approach, saying:
“If they come with R5-million, we will not buy their story because we have already seen they are not in a position to honour the agreement. It’s about the principle. If you enter into the agreement, you need to honour the agreement.”
The relevant municipalities have yet to respond to threats of an imminent power disruption.