Emfuleni, which owes Eskom R3bn, wants power utility to stop with disconnections
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Johannesburg - Emfuleni Local Municipality MMCs, PR and ward councillors joined their community in a march to Eskom’s head office at Megawatt Park in Sandton, where they delivered a memorandum of grievances.
This comes after Eskom embarked on a programme to disconnect electricity to the communities. The Red Ants Security and Relocation Services accompanied Eskom officials.
The programme reportedly targeted various areas in Sebokeng and Evaton, resulting in community protests.
The municipality said these disconnections came as a surprise to the communities and councillors.
“(This is) primarily because Eskom is undertaking a campaign of issuing forms to communities to acknowledge debt as part of credit control and a condition attached to replace damaged transformers including to normalise all meters that have been tampered with by various households in the past.”
The municipality said Eskom announced a roll-out plan last year and its implementation was warmly welcomed by the Emfuleni communities.
“The community and councillors are aggrieved by this action since Eskom is viewed as acting in bad faith after the earlier agreement was reached with all affected stakeholders.”
Emfuleni’s fragile relationship with Eskom has been well documented. This is after it emerged that the municipality owed more than R3 billion to the power supply utility.
A memorandum handed over to Eskom by the municipality’s leadership indicated that councillors were affected by the instability of electrical services rendered to the community of Vaal.
“Eskom must stop disconnection and engage in consultation with all the stakeholders. Disconnection of electricity provision is cited as a major human rights concern in the recent report of the SA Human Rights Commission.”
The memorandum also states that Eskom must stop putting the lives of councillors at risk by entering their wards with Red Ants without their knowledge.
Human Settlements, Urban Planning and Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Lebogang Maile has highlighted that one of the biggest challenges to the municipality’s financial viability and sustainability is historical debt to large creditors, such as Eskom.
“We are performing a payment schedule to agree with Eskom. Current accounts are not up to date due to account attachments and access to cash, but even here we are gradually catching up on the backlog as cash becomes available.”
Maile said a discussion was held with Eskom regarding the issue of large power users. “A principled agreement was reached for Eskom and the municipality to work together to find solutions to this very serious problem facing the municipality.”
The DA’s Emfuleni chief whip Teboho Tlokwe said this was an uncalled for decision by the municipality’s council.
“We can never authorise something like this. The mayor of Emfuleni is a culprit of owing Eskom. Yes, it’s a historic debt but also the issue of residents marching to Eskom is a long-standing issue, but it’s a back-and-forth matter,” he said.