050910 Electricity pylons carry power from Cape Town's Koeberg nuclear power plant July 17, 2009. South Africa will need 20 gigawatts (GW) of new power generation capacity by 2020 and would require double that amount a decade later to meet rising demand, the country's power utility said September 7, 2009. Picture taken July 17, 2009. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings (SOUTH AFRICA ENERGY BUSINESS)

The electricity debt in Soweto amounts to R3.3 billion, Eskom said on Wednesday.

This was excluding the interest owed, spokeswoman Hillary Joffe said.

“The payment level in Soweto is well below 20 cents. This is a historical problem, and in a sense a political problem,” said Joffe.

Residents in the area were paying less than 20 cents for every R1 of electricity supplied to them.

Eskom supplies electricity directly to Soweto.

Joffe said there were many other areas which got electricity directly from the power utility, but this payment issue was specific to Soweto.

“This level of non-payment and accumulation of debt is a Soweto issue,” she said.

“There are other townships and areas we (Eskom) supply where payment is above 80c.”

Eskom had been speaking with its partners and the department of public enterprise to try find a solution.

“We've been developing a integrated strategy to try to curb the growing debt and promote safe and legal electricity use.”

Joffe said Eskom supplied direct electricity to 40 percent of consumers in the country.

The majority of its customers used pre-paid meters. However, the majority of people in Soweto still had conventional meters.

“(This) runs up debt,” she said. - Sapa