Cape Town - The ANC’s provincial leadership is set to intervene in a service debt dispute between Eskom and two Western Cape municipalities where the party governs.
It was revealed at the weekend that Eskom was avoiding blacking out several rural towns, even enlisting the help of Western Cape Premier Helen Zille to get the Kannaland and Cederberg municipalities, which are struggling to pay their service debt, to pay their joint arrears of R26 million.
ANC provincial leader Marius Fransman said the party would ask for a detailed report from the Icosa-led Kannaland municipality, where it is in coalition, and the Cederberg municipality where it governs.
“The principal behind this is the fact that municipalities must honour their debt,” Fransman said.
Kannaland municipality, which covers the towns of Ladismith, Calitzdorp, Zoar and Vanwyksdorp, owes Eskom a whopping R20m while the Cederberg municipality, which covers the West Coast towns of Citrusdal, Clanwilliam, Graafwater and Lamberts Bay, owes R6m.
A confidential municipal auditing report on electricity meters, done at the request of the Kannaland Municipality, revealed faulty meters and ageing infrastructure.
Exacerbating factors were that some big businesses were not paying in full for their electricity, while meter readers struggled to get access to meters.
The businesses which had faulty meters included wine cellars, supermarkets, a tavern, a cheese factory, a dairy giant, a retirement home and even a government department.
Fransman said: “We are talking about poor communities and we cannot risk supply cuts.
“The ANC in the province will engage the relevant leadership of both municipalities and will look into claims that middle- and high-income customers and categories like businesses are not paying.”
In principle, municipalities in which the ANC was in government had to ensure that good payment practices were implemented.
“There’s a bigger problem in local government and that is the fact that there’s great expectations on municipalities to generate income, but unlike the bigger metro municipalities, the income-generating options for rural municipalities are far smaller.”
Fransman said a strategic discussion was needed with Eskom on tariff structures for small towns.