| January 10, 2017

One of the 27 municipalities which owe South African power utility Eskom close to 10 billion Rand (about 728 million US dollars) in unpaid bills, has attributed its debt to lack of consistency in leadership.

The Ditsobotla Municipality in Litchenburg in North West Province has incurred a debt of 185 million Rand in just three years. The municipality, which was placed under administration in 2015, has had at least two mayors and four municipal managers in the last three years.

All 27 municipalities have at only a week left to pay their unpaid electricity bills. In North West Province, several municipalities are in the red, including Madibeng, Kgetleng, Mamusa, Naledi and Ditsobotla.

The Ditsobotla Municipality says that the instability caused by the appointing and firing of municipal managers had led to going through eight months without billing. With a week to go before Eskom pulls the plug, there is no immediate solution, apart from advising big businesses to start buying electricity directly from Eskom.

The municipality's Acting Chief Financial Officer, Tsie Tsie, says it will be impossible for it to pay the unpaid bills before Eskom cuts off the supply.

While one civic organization, SANCO, is calling for punitive action to be taken against officials responsible for the current state of affairs, and for municipalities to be placed under administration, big businesses are already predicting job losses.

Local businesses are also worried. Tom Hoogkant runs a carpentry business, which he says only uses electrically-powered machinery.

As a carpenter I rely on electricity. It will affect me, it will be very tough now. Most of the time we use electrical tools. I can't afford to lose my job. I use these tools on a daily basis to do the job. I can't afford to buy a generator.

Meanwhile, Eskom says plans are underway to pull the plug on all municipalities which have failed to service their debt, unless arrangements are made to settle the outstanding amounts.

Ditsobotla says they will enter into negotiations with Eskom on how to service the debt through monthly payments.


Category: Human Rights

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