The town of Lichtenburg, which is the headquarters of the troubled Ditsobotla Local Municipality in the North West, is in darkness after Eskom switched the power supply off over a historic debt.
The municipality owes Eskom over R1 billion, making it one of the biggest defaulters in the league of Emfuleni Local Municipality in Gauteng.
The power cut has affected mainly the town of Lichtenburg, the main economic hub of the municipality, which includes areas like Coligny and Biesiesvlei.
According to the municipality, on Friday, Eskom told officials that the municipality must pay a certain amount of its outstanding debts before it can restore the electricity supply in Lichtenburg.
"Eskom's turnaround and delaying tactics have caught the municipality by surprise because we thought the problem of the electricity blackout in Lichtenburg could have expeditiously been addressed a long time ago by Eskom," the municipality said in a statement.
To speedily resolve the matter, the municipality located under the Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipality said it has approached the provincial government.
"Meanwhile, the municipality did not want the electricity problem to prolong, thus it escalated the matter to the provincial government for speedy intervention," it further said in the statement.
The leader of the DA in the province, Leon Basson, said Eskom demanded R123 million before it could consider restoring the bulk power supply.
Basson said Eskom’s decision is in contempt of court, but it is also immoral and completely unconstitutional since, in 2017, the Mahikeng High Court ruled that it cannot interrupt or suspend electricity supply for any reason other than mechanical or technical maintenance or repairs.
Subsequently, even the Constitutional Court ruled last year that Eskom could not act unilaterally to suspend electricity supply.
"While we understand Eskom’s right to demand payment, we cannot allow that the lives and livelihoods of residents are being used as a bargaining tool for the failures of the ANC in Ditsobotla. Many of the affected residents duly serviced their municipal electricity accounts and are now being punished for the political failures of the ANC in government," Basson said.
Basson added that the power will hit already suffocated households hard and put the few available jobs at risk.
"Affected residents have lost food to spoilage, and have had to make alternative arrangements that have left a massive impact on household finances. Businesses have lost income and had to invest in alternatives to support the trade of goods and services, negatively affecting their bottom line which is putting much-needed jobs at risk," Basson said.