Durban — The SA Local Government Association (Salga) in KwaZulu-Natal has urged municipalities to challenge Eskom’s unilateral load reduction plan, which it said was hurting local economies and households.
According to KZN Salga chairperson Thami Ntuli, Eskom has added hours of load shedding to defaulting municipalities as “punishment”. Eskom is said to be owed billions of rand by errant municipalities.
Speaking to the Daily News on Thursday, Ntuli, who is also the King Cetshwayo District mayor, said what Eskom was allegedly doing was illegal and he called for support for municipalities challenging Eskom’s unilateral rationing power. Ntuli said by punishing municipalities that owed it money, Eskom was indirectly punishing poor people and emerging businesses, some of which might be paying for electricity.
He said instead of adding hours of load shedding to the defaulting municipalities, the power utility should help municipalities deal with problems that were not of their own making, such as illegal connections, which contributed to the municipalities’ defaulting.
“So, as Salga in the province, we believe this is Eskom’s problem which it now uses to punish owing municipalities by adding more hours of load shedding,” said Ntuli “For us, this is illegal and we call on municipalities to challenge Eskom on this.”
Ntuli, who is also the IFP provincial chairperson, said the practice of added load reduction for defaulting municipalities made a mockery of contract law and the Constitution. He said that, by law, municipalities were restricted to the reticulation of electricity and so were naturally dependent on Eskom.
Similarly, households depended on municipalities. If one party in this supply chain did not play its part, the system failed. However, Eskom should not deprive households of their fundamental service rights, especially without following due process.
“Salga calls on all municipalities impacted by ... load reduction to immediately approach the courts for relief. Although non-payment is not justified, it is understandable since electricity users are stricken by poverty and unemployment.”
Ntuli said Eskom should be assisting municipalities to mitigate the challenges faced with collection.
Eskom stakeholder representative Zethu Sonjica said the power utility had met with KwaZulu-Natal Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs representatives to discuss the matter and all parties committed themselves to finding an amicable solution.