Residents set to suffer as KZN municipality and Eskom fight over R123m power bill

05 July 2019 - 18:18 By LWANDILE BHENGU
Eskom has threatened rolling power cuts to the Mpofana municipality inthe KZN midlands if an outstanding R123m bill is not settled
Eskom has threatened rolling power cuts to the Mpofana municipality inthe KZN midlands if an outstanding R123m bill is not settled
Image: Dean Hutton/Bloomberg

Residents of the Mpofana municipality in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands wait in fear and frustration as government and Eskom engage in “intense” negotiations to prevent the power utility from cutting power to the municipality.

This as the July 8 deadline given to the municipality to settle its outstanding R123m electricity bill - which dates back to 2015 - fast approaches.

Mooi River resident Lloyd Phillips said that he and his family were nowhere near being prepared to deal with the power outage.

"I have no contingency simply because it is expensive to buy a generator. Even to run a generator is expensive because the fuel prices are high. I really don't know what I am going to do. We don't know how long these power cuts will last for," said Phillips.

In a statement released on Friday, the KwaZulu-Natal cooperative governance and traditional affairs department (Cogta) said that it had not yet reached a solution with the power utility.

"Cogta, together with the Eskom delegation, are still engaged in intense discussions to prevent the [power] interruption in Mpofana municipality. While there appears to be no immediate solution as yet, both parties are optimistic that a breakthrough may still be found," Cogta said.

If a solution is not reached by Monday the power utility said it would hit the municipality, which covers areas such as Mooi River, Bruntville and Nottingham Road, with rolling blackouts. These blackouts will see these areas without power for up to 12 hours a day.

Phillips said that many members of the community were frustrated and that he feared their reaction to the situation.

"People are fearful and frustrated and this might lead them to react or retaliate in a violent way," said Phillips.

According to Phillips, to the best of his knowledge, the municipality had only called one meeting about the issue.

While Cogta and Eskom talk it out, Mpofana municipality mayor Xolani Duma has said he will not take Eskom's "stubbornness" lying down and has threatened to seek an interdict against them.

"Eskom happens to be very stubborn in the case of Mpofana, unlike in other municipalities. They only sent a circular to disconnect Mpofana yet there are many other municipalities who owe money," said Duma.

He said that they have had several meetings with Eskom and have even paid them over R6m to stop them from cutting the power. However, he said that Eskom had not cooperated.

"I have instructed the municipal manager to launch an urgent interdict against them because we will not take this lying down," said Duma.

Meanwhile, Cogta said it would continue its negotiations with Eskom throughout the weekend and urged residents to settle all outstanding bills.

"Cogta has appealed to all Mpofana residents, businesses and farmers who owe the municipality for services to make immediate payments to prevent the interruption," said Cogta.