The Umfolozi Local Municipality on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast has instructed its residents to disconnect themselves from the Eskom grid as it tries to negotiate a better amnesty deal.
The municipality says residents have a duty to pay for electricity, and where there have been illegal connections, they have to voluntarily fix that.
The municipality’s mayor, Xolani Bhengu, told residents on Wednesday that before the amnesty deal with the power supplier kicks in, they must do the right thing and disconnect themselves.
Bhengu was speaking to the residents during a farmers' market day in KwaMbonambi, in northern KwaZulu-Natal. Eskom directly supplies its customers in rural municipalities like Umfolozi and many others in the country.
He told the residents that Eskom has devised a new system to deal with illegal connections in areas like theirs, and it was risky for them to agree to its implementation.
The new system, according to Bhengu, is that if there is a power failure before Eskom fixes it, it has to conduct a consumer audit to determine the number of illegal connections.
However, apparently, out of security fears for its staff, Eskom now wants the community of the municipality to form a committee to conduct the audit and root out the illegal connections.
Bhengu says this is very risky as it may end up pitting community members against each other; hence, he wants them to voluntarily disconnect themselves.
“On your behalf, we have asked Eskom to be lenient with us on the matter of illegal connections while we get the issue fixed together with you in an amicable manner.
“We pleaded that our people are poor and the little we get is used mainly for food, and the R6,000 levied as a fine is unaffordable to our poor people,” Bhengu said.
He added that, in return, Eskom demanded that the municipality lead the fight against illegal connections.
“We now pleaded with you to voluntarily disconnect yourself because Eskom now does not want to speak to councillors when there is a power outage but wants to speak directly with the consumer,” he added.