Parliament - Eskom CEO Brian Molefe on Wednesday called for legislation to make prepaid electricity the norm for all households, telling MPs it would help to curb the utility’s losses from theft and non-payment.
“We think prepaid electricity should be standardised, we should accept the principle of prepaid electricity by everybody and and maybe the shortest way is to introduce legislation,” he told a select committee on public enterprises.
Molefe added that a major benefit would be to relieve Eskom of the burden of unpaid municipal debt, which amounts to billions of rands and has seen the utility serve many with disconnection notices.
“If the whole of South Africa was on prepaid a lot of our problems, administrative problems, would be resolved.”
Turning to illegal connections, he made the crude point that Eskom would not lose money from electricity stolen in this manner as it would already have been “prepaid by somebody”.
Molefe conceded that there was popular resistance to Eskom’s current roll-out of prepaid installations in Soweto, noting that on Tuesday night, prepaid electricity metres were burnt at the utility’s store.
“We can only fathom this to mean that it is the movement from non-payment to certainty of payment that people fear, there are certain members in society who are unhappy about the fact that there will be certainty of payment.”
Molefe said prepaid electricity could also prove the answer to municipalities who lacked the capacity to collect utility payments. Eskom could then simply pay their share of the revenue over to them.
When MPs raised the plight of people in rural areas who had to walk kilometres to the nearest shop to buy prepaid electricity, Molefe said this was “valid criticism”.
He said he had been called out for making policy calls, but would venture that there was also a need to write legislation that would allow the utility to appeal the National Energy Regulator of SA’s tariff determinations.
“We would be happy if there was a place we could appeal to.”