Matlosana Municipality won't be left in the dark

Millions yet to be paid to settle Eskom bill

Thousands of Matlosana residents feared they'd be left in the dark after Eskom's plans to cut its power
pylons eskom

Eskom says it will not cut off power to the Matlosana Municipality in the North West (which includes the towns of Klerksdorp and Jouberton), following news reports that the municipality owes the electricity supplier more than R91 million  some of which had been outstanding for more than 90 days.

Newscasts last week, that Eskom planned to cut the electricity supply to the municipality (and a number of others that were millions of rands in arrears) if it did not pay its bill, caused panic among residents, in fear that they would be left in the dark if the bill was not paid.

According to municipal spokesperson Ntswaki Makgetha, talks between Eskom and the municipality resulted in a favourable outcome. "An agreement was reached with Eskom, and the public should not stress. There won't be any switching off of electricity."

The municipality's mayor Michael Khauoe said it had made a payment on its electricity bill. "We have honoured the first part of the agreement by paying R47m. We will be paying the balance of the amount at the end of this month," he said.

Cutting the power was a last resort, Eskom spokesperson Hilary Joffe was quoted as telling Beeld newspaper. 

Khauoe said the municipality would give priority to the Eskom account.

Earlier, Afriforum said it would bring an application in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria to compel the municipality to honour its commitments to Eskom and to maintain electricity supply in the municipality.

Afriforum lawyer Willie Spies said the court action would go ahead, despite the "alleged settlement".

"We will still be in court. We now want the court to endorse this alleged agreement that has been reached, so there is some officiality (sic) in it. I am a bit concerned. What if there is no payment, then what?" he said.

Spies said the initial notice of the power cut was not fair to taxpayers who had paid their bills on time. It was not the residents' fault that the municipality had failed to pay its account, he said.

Khauoe said the municipality had no dealings with Afriforum and that an agreement was reached with Eskom alone.

"We have not spoken to Afriforum. We have no business with them."

Eskom says on its website it has become increasingly concerned about the rapid growth in municipal arrear debt, which stood at R1.3-billion in February 2013. Eskom urges all defaulting municipalities to honour their commitment to pay for the electricity they use.

"Disconnection is a last resort, when payment agreements have not been honoured, and Eskom complies with the provisions of the Promotion of Administrative Justice Act, which requires it to publish notices and give affected customers a chance to make submissions before it can resort to disconnecting supply," Eskom says.

Eskom says it had, on 26 February, issued the Matjhabeng Municipality in the Free State province with a notice of disconnection, alerting the municipality to inform its customers that electricity supply to the municipality will be disconnected on 10 April 2013 if it does not settle its outstanding account by 31 March 2013. Matjhabeng includes several towns, the largest of which is Welkom, and has R145m in arrear debt to Eskom. The public are invited to make submissions by 10am on Thursday, 28 March 2013.

Approximately 40% of Eskom’s total sales go to municipalities, which Eskom supplies in bulk, while they in turn supply electricity to households and businesses in their areas of supply.

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