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Nelspruit - Over 100 000 residents of Thaba Chweu in Mpumalanga face a power shutdown if the local municipality fails to pay a R146 million debt to Eskom before Wednesday.
The power utility issued an ultimatum that unless the long-standing debt was paid, the entire municipal area would be plunged into darkness, a Sapa correspondent reported on Monday.
Eskom spokesman Khulu Phasiwe said: “The municipality has not communicated with us at all, and so far there have been no payments made.
“So, as it stands the power cut will be going ahead.”
He said the municipality would be left without power until the debt was paid.
The Thaba Chweu local municipality encompasses the tourist towns of Mashishing, Graskop, and Sabie, and has a total population of just more than 100,000 people.
Phasiwe said: “We don’t enjoy doing this, but we expect customers to pay or at least come to us with an agreement discussing ways in which to negotiate payment.
“We are hoping that the municipality will communicate with us. Our door is always open.”
In September, the provincial government sent a municipal task team to Thaba Chweu to prevent what Mpumalanga premier David Mabuza described as “a total collapse”.
Thaba Chweu municipal spokesman Surprise Maebela said that the municipality was struggling to gather payments from its own debtors.
“There are people who owe us money, but we are waiting to see what the results of the task team’s investigation will reveal.
“We are, however, confident that we will resolve this issue before the deadline.”
At the signing of a memorandum of understand with Eskom in Mbombela recently, Mabuza said that a team of nine MECs had been appointed to resolve the situation in Thaba Chweu.
“I understand Eskom’s point of view because it is a business that needs to make money. I pay my rates and taxes, so why should I have to sit in darkness because of the municipality’s problems?”
Mabuza describe the situation in Thaba Chweu as “very abnormal” and said the municipality had problems with its billing and revenue collection systems.
“As provincial government we are stepping in to assist and we assure Eskom that the debt will be paid.
“Everything is under control. There is no need to worry.”