Emalahleni faces blackouts as municipality fails to pay R397m Eskom debt
The Emalahleni municipality, in Mpumalanga, said on Tuesday it had failed to raise the funds sought by Eskom in order to keep the city’s lights on.
On October 31, Eskom gave the municipality 15 days to raise at least R397m of the R3.4bn debt it owed.
“The municipality won’t be able to settle that amount as it does not have the money,” said spokesperson Lebohang Mofokeng.
In a bid to recover some of the costs, the municipality implemented some load-shedding in areas where most residents were not paying their service fees.
Mofokeng expressed little confidence that this would lead to people paying.
“Even if the cut-off actions can be extremely intensified, we do not anticipate receiving the required amount,” he said.
Mofokeng listed several reasons for the failure to recoup the money.
These included low municipal electricity billing when compared with Eskom billing and distribution losses, which were attributed to illegal connections.
The solution put on the table would be for the municipality to get into talks with Eskom to negotiate a suitable payment plan, Mofokeng said.
“In the worst scenario, if residents are not responding to the call, the municipality has an option available at its disposal to approach the high court for relief in the form of a prohibitory interdict against Eskom on an urgent basis,” he said.
The municipality has in the past taken its pleas to court, seeking an interdict against Eskom, which had wanted to switch off the power supply.
The court previously ruled in favour of the municipality “on the basis that the parties are organs of state and must engage amicably in terms of the Intergovernmental Relation Framework Act", Mofokeng said.
He acknowledged that cutting off power would have dire consequences, not only for residents but for businesses as well.