Municipalities need to stop seeing electricity as revenue, says MEC Khumalo

'Fix ageing infrastructure and stop blaming municipalities, Eskom for power failures'

Gauteng MEC for Cogta Mzi Khumalo says they need to find a way for municipalities to sustain themselves beyond electricity.
Gauteng MEC for Cogta Mzi Khumalo says they need to find a way for municipalities to sustain themselves beyond electricity.
Image: Freddy Mavunda

Gauteng MEC of co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) Mzi Khumalo says municipalities need to stop looking at electricity as part of their revenue but as a service.

“I think we must move towards a discussion where municipalities do not necessarily see electricity as a revenue, because if that is the only way they look at the energy as a revenue, rather than a service to be provided to people, we are going to be stuck,” he said.

Khumalo was talking during a Cogta and e-governance committee meeting with the City of Johannesburg, City Power and Eskom on Wednesday in Sandton. 

“Every time you engage the councillors around the mixed energy strategy, you can see that they hold back because suddenly in their minds you are taking away our revenue. We have to find a way in which municipalities are able to sustain themselves even beyond electricity,” he said.

The portfolio committee met the department and the entities to allow them to account for mitigation in place to address the challenges resulting in Gauteng’s energy and water crisis.

Khumalo said load shedding wrecks the economy and that municipalities' revenue has plummeted due to a lack of electricity.

He said they had identified their common interests with stakeholders, particularly focusing on the protection of critical infrastructure, dealing with illegal connections and the installation of smart meters.

“I had some energy experts yesterday (Tuesday). They told me that smart meters are not a solution. I listened carefully. It is a question that we need to continuously engage on, but I think the biggest problem there is that smart meters give you an accurate billing system.”

He added that the current meters in the municipalities were old and faulty and had not been billing accurately, and in most cases were under-billing customers.

“Now when you bring something that bills people properly, then they see this movement upwards, and it becomes the biggest problem, hence a comprehensive strategy is required when we deal with these particular issues.”

Khumalo said the key concern was the devastating effect of load shedding on Gauteng’s economy. 

He said the country needed to deal with ageing infrastructure rather than continue blaming municipalities, Eskom and other institutions. 

“We have a big problem of infrastructure. If you go to Emfuleni [local municipality] you will see electricity infrastructure affects sanitation, water and provision of services. We have to do something.”

According to Khumalo, vandalism, theft and lack of infrastructure upgrades by municipalities were other issues contributing to the energy crisis in the province. 

“They (municipalities) are just utilising. We all know that you can’t drive a car without taking care of it,” he said, also pointing out the lack of skills required to maintain and improve infrastructure in some areas.

He said they went to Emfuleni after flooding and asked for a technical report to help the department intervene but were told the municipality doesn’t have the necessary skills to provide a report.

He added that illegal connections were like vandalism which is devastating power supply in communities.


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