Two councils face power cuts for R161m debt

TWO municipalities in Mpumalanga are facing an electricity cut-off due to a combined R161-million owed to Eskom.

Earlier this week Eskom published notices informing the public that the bulk electricity supply to the Lekwa and Msukaligwa local municipalities would be cut on April 25 due to outstanding balances of R97-million and R64-million, respectively.

Lekwa encompasses Standerton, Sakhile and Morgenzon. Msukaligwa is seated in Ermelo and includes Breyten, Davel, Sheepmoor, Chrissiesmeer, Lothair and Warburton.

According to Eskom Lekwa's debt has been accruing since April 2012 and Msukaligwa's since July 2012.

Eskom also invited all interested and affected parties to make submissions before April 16 as to why the disconnections should not take place.

Msukaligwa municipal spokesman Mandla Zwane said the money owed to Eskom added up to only R48.9-million, excluding the current account.

"The municipality has been paying but the amount was not sufficient to settle the outstanding balance. This is due to nonpayment by some of the our consumers.

"Within the next two weeks, the municipality will engage Eskom in an attempt to avert the cut-off," Zwane said.

At the time of going to press Lekwa municipal spokesman Sipho Mkhwanazi had not responded to questions sent on Wednesday.

Eskom said yesterday: "Eskom has become increasingly concerned about the rapid growth in municipal debt, which stood at R1.3-billion in February 2013."

Mpumalanga DA spokesman on cooperative governance James Masango called on MEC for cooperative governance and traditional affairs Simon Sikhosana to take the necessary steps to prevent Eskom from disconnecting the electricity supply to these municipalities.

"It is critical that MEC Sikhosana ensures the continued supply of electricity to these municipalities as life for thousands of residents will suddenly come to an absolute standstill," Masango said.

"It is quite obvious that both municipalities lack the necessary financial management capacity to bill services and collect revenue for services rendered, and pay bulk service providers - and the DA believes that heads must roll."

Cooperative governance and traditional affairs spokesperson Simphiwe Kunene said the department was aware of the problem.

"We are engaging with municipalities and Eskom to try to avert cut-offs," Kunene said.

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