Dark days await Thaba Chweu once again

LYDENBURG – Thaba Chweu Local Municipality (TCLM) is now also on the list for its bulk electricity supply to be cut by Eskom for non-payment. Despite the fact that TCLM has assured residents that it is honouring its payment agreement with the provider, it now seems that this is not the case.

The electricity giant published a notice stating that, “Eskom hereby notifies all parties who are likely to be materially and adversely affected by its intention of interrupt bulk electricity supply to Thaba Chweu Local Municipality on March 13, 2017 and continuing indefinitely.”

The municipality currently owes Eskom R355 770 257 – part of which has been outstanding and in escalation since September 2002. In the past three years TCLM was also threatened with disconnection from Eskom. In 2014 the municipality owed the electricity provider R196 million. It has since increased with R159 million.

This poses a grave concern as the High Court ruled in January that Eskom may cut off power supply to municipalities as a means to recover outstanding debt. These measures will be implemented from Monday to Friday from 06:00 to 08:00 and 17:00 to 19:00. On weekends electricity will be cut from 08:30 to 11:00 and 15:00 to 17:30.

The notice stated that TCLM’s breach of its payment obligation to Eskom undermines and placed in jeopardy the energy provider’s ability to continue the national supply of electricity on a financially sustainable basis. “In order to protect the national interest in the sustainability of electricity supply, it has become necessary for Eskom to exercise its right to disconnect the supply of electricity to Thaba Chweu Local Municipality.”

Eskom said it recognised the indefinite disconnection of power supply might cause undue hardship to consumers and members of the community, and may adversely affect the delivery of other services. The newspaper sent queries through to TCLM regarding the said disconnection. Mr Puleng Mapheto, communications manager at the municipality told Steelburger/Lydenburg News that TCLM had been in constant discussion with the power utility on the pending disconnection.

“The purpose of the engagements was to constructively discuss the challenges and to develop potential solutions on the matter at hand. It is an open secret that the municipality is not making a profit on the distribution of electricity. “As we are all aware, this emanates from the culture of non-payment, meter tampering and illegal electricity connections.

“As an aid to halt the pending implementation of the Process of Administrative Justice Act processes, the municipality has formally submitted a catchup plan in order to remedy the amount in arrears. We would like to assure the public that we will not be disconnected as we are doing everything in our power to avert any looming disconnection.”

Mapheto encourage all members to keep their accounts up to date. “Residents with an account in arrears are invited to come to the municipal office in order to discuss an appropriate repayment plan. Please report any meter tampering and illegal connections. This is a matter which needs joint attention. Together we can overcome this matter. We emphasis, however, that those who connected electricity illegally will face hefty fines or possible prosecution.” The municipality did not state how an increase of R159 million could have taken place.

Narda Vermaak

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