by Grantham Steenkamp, MPL – DA Northern Cape spokesperson of COGHSTA
Date: 18 November 2020
The continued threat of power cuts due to high levels of outstanding debt owed by Northern Cape municipalities to Eskom, are placing a damper on the upcoming festive season. This has prompted the Democratic Alliance (DA) to call on the MEC of COGHSTA, Bentley Vass, to proactively ensure that all municipalities comply with their payment agreements.
High municipal debt
High municipal debt levels were again highlighted in a recent parliamentary reply by the Minister of Public Enterprises. According to the information provided on the Northern Cape, only four local municipalities in the province owe under R1 million to Eskom. Furthermore, as at end of July 2020, Northern Cape municipalities owed a total of R432,526 million to Eskom.
The figures presented are concerning.
Just last month, four municipalities had their power cut as government scrambled to renegotiate payment terms with Eskom. We cannot afford for a repeat of this situation in November and December. Businesses have taken a severe knock due to Covid-19 lockdowns and ongoing economic decline. They need all the support they can get to be able to conduct uninterrupted businesses over the festive season and keep head above water. Imposing power cuts would be detrimental to them, forcing them to either close shop or pay more to utilise generators. This would be grossly unfair.
While we have previously called on MEC Vass and even the premier, Dr Zamani Saul, to take the lead in managing the municipal debt crisis, we want a confirmation that they have indeed done so.
The people in debt-riddled municipalities also deserve a guarantee from their local authorities that their livelihoods will not be further jeopardised by easily preventable power cuts. It cannot be that residents dutifully pay their electricity account, but then get punished when the municipality defaults on its payments because of poor financial management practices.
Electricity fuels economy
Electricity fuels the economy. It is an essential ingredient in job creation and if government is at all concerned about the country’s record 43,1% unemployment rate, it will prioritise the prevention of any further job losses due to debt-induced loadshedding this Christmas and beyond.
Grantham Steenkamp, MPL
DA Northern Cape spokesperson of COGHSTA
071 797 6292
Shelley de Witt
082 847 1387