Cape Town - Oudtshoorn and its surrounding towns could be plunged into darkness by August after Eskom threatened to cut off the local government authority’s power supply if it does not settle an unpaid bill of R7.4 million.
The district has hit back, however, saying Oudtshoorn municipality has been in dispute with Eskom over an amount of R8m since 2007.
Eskom gave the Klein Karoo town’s council until August 3 before it cuts the power supply to the area, following the embattled municipality’s failure to settle an amount totalling R7 467 323 for the supply of electricity, part of which has been outstanding and in escalation since April 18.
Oudtshoorn municipality is a B-category municipality, serving a population of more than 95 000, including the towns of Oudtshoorn, Dysselsdorp, De Rust and surrounding farms.
In the notice, Eskom wrote that it is obliged to supply electricity on a financially sustainable basis.
“The failure of Oudtshoorn municipality to pay its electricity account timeously has jeopardised the financial sustainability of supplying electricity to the other mentioned towns/municipal areas,” the notice read.
The power utility invited all parties to submit written comments on or before close of business on Tuesday, June 30, indicating why it should not proceed with the planned disconnection.
Confirming the disconnection notice, Eskom’s provincial spokeswoman, Jolene Henn, said a Public Finance and Management Act complaint notice had been issued to Oudtshoorn municipality.
She said Eskom was legally bound by the Act to collect all revenue due to it, and could not allow spiralling debt to go unchecked.
“Eskom reserves the right, including the right to disconnect the supply of electricity to defaulting municipalities, in line with the Promotion of Administrative and Justice Act (Paja) No 3 of 2000… Oudtshoorn municipality has made partial payment to the outstanding account as indicated in the PAJA letters sent to all stakeholders,” she added.
Henn said there were no other defaulting municipalities in the province.
Responding to the notice, the Oudtshoorn municipality said it is in dispute with Eskom’s head office regarding an amount of R8m owed by Eskom to the municipality since 2007.
The municipality’s acting municipal manager Ronnie Lottering said: “The current amount owed by the municipality to Eskom only amounts to R4m. Eskom renders various accounts for monthly consumption to the municipality, which are fully paid every month. Only one of those accounts is partially outstanding. R3.46m of the outstanding account of R7.4m has been paid and the balance of R4m still outstanding will be settled before the end of May.”
Lottering said the amount owed by Oudtshoorn consumers to the municipality for electricity amounts to R4.123m and the municipality has embarked on a process to establish a culture of payment in the Oudtshoorn community by discontinuing services for non-payment of current accounts after the due date.
“Consumers can rest assured that the electricity will not be discontinued by Eskom in August as indicated,” he added.