Eskom says it has suspended bulk electricity disconnections to the three Free State municipalities, which would have been at midday (Friday, 03 October) following an intervention by the Minister of Public Enterprises Lynne Brown and the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Pravin Gordhan.
The Ngwathe, Dihlabeng and Maluti-a-Phofung Local Municipalities together owe Eskom R736 million as at 30 September 2014.
The Chief Executive of Eskom Tshediso Matona says the ministers have requested a period of two weeks to find a solution to the problem. “We support the Ministers’ call to engage further on the matter as it has serious bearing on Eskom’s financial and operational sustainability. As part of this process, we will in the next two weeks engage with the Premier of the Free State and the affected municipalities with the hope that they come up with workable payment plans. The involvement of the Premier gives us hope that the process will move forward in a more positive manner.”
Eskom published disconnection notices for the three municipalities in June 2014 with the planned disconnection set for 4 August 2014. Eskom and the Free State delegation led by the Finance Member of the Executive Council (MEC) met to discuss the arrear debt and pending disconnections at the end of July 2014. The team reached an agreement that Eskom would suspend disconnections until the end of August 2014. However, the disconnection notices would remain in effect until the negotiation process was finalised.
The August deadline was extended to the end of September 2014 as municipalities struggled to meet stipulations of and deadlines on agreed actions. The three municipalities still failed to meet this revised deadline for payment. This then led to Eskom giving notice to disconnect the three defaulting municipalities on Friday, 03 October 2014. Eskom has an obligation by law to take effective steps to collect all revenue due to it in order to ensure its operational and financial sustainability.