File picture: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko
File picture: Reuters/Siphiwe Sibeko

Eskom's ballooning debt must be dealt with, Scopa warns

By MAYIBONGWE MAQHINA Time of article published Mar 4, 2020

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Cape Town - The challenge around the payment of more than R26 billion owed by municipalities to power utility Eskom is far from being resolved.

This is after it emerged at the meeting of the standing committee on public accounts (Scopa) on Wednesday that the inter-ministerial committee (IMC) on service delivery led by Deputy President David Mabuza has informed Parliament that it was not mandated to deal with the Eskom debt.

This was despite Scopa being previously informed by Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Deputy Minister Parks Tau that the IMC has taken over the role of the defunct inter-ministerial task team (IMTT) in respect of Eskom's debt.

At the meeting were Cogta Minister Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, the Eskom board and officials including CEO Andre de Ruyter, the National Treasury, the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure and the Office of the Auditor-General.  

Dlamini Zuma attended the meeting despite not being mandated to do so. She had previously been criticised by the committee when she did not pitch up when the matter was up for discussion.

Briefing the meeting, Scopa chairperson Mkhuleko Hlengwa said Mabuza's parliamentary counsellor Hope Papo had in correspondence to the committee informed them that the IMC has not been mandated to deal with the Eskom debt.

"We are likely to be saddled with the Eskom debt for the longest time until we deal with it," Hlengwa said.

"We want the debt paid. That is the issue," he said.

Hlengwa noted that the debt had skyrocketed under the defunct IMTT and that the government was not willing to discuss it other than related technical and policy matters.

"That must be dealt with by the portfolio committee. The issue is that the debt must be paid," he said.

After deliberations, Hlengwa said that a meeting would be called on March 18 to discuss the Eskom debt.

He said communication would be sent to Mabuza, Minister in the Presidency Jackson Mthembu, Cogta, National Treasury, Salga, MECs where most defaulting municipalities were located and Eskom.

"What is clear is that there is no common approach. That is where the entire exercise falls on its face. We are to create our own structure," Hlengwa said.

"There is an unprecedented level of incompetence to do the right things and to coordinate properly...It is as if nobody recognises there is a crisis," Hlengwa added.

Political Bureau

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