Sylvia Lucas, the Premier of the Northern Cape, will lead a high-level meeting with power utility Eskom on Tuesday following power cuts to five municipalities last week.
The Magareng, Thembelihle, Ubuntu, Dikgatlong and Renosterberg municipalities in the Northern Cape owe Eskom about R113-million for electricity.
Last week Alvin Botes, Cooperative Governance, Traditional Affairs and Human Settlement (Coghsta) MEC, told a press conference the threat of disconnection by Eskom has been averted following agreements between Eskom and the municipalities.
Earlier last week, Eskom had threatened to cut electricity to 11 Northern Cape towns. However on Friday, three days later, power was cut for three hours to the municipalities.
“The disconnection of electricity in municipalities is a crime against humanity in general and the people of Northern Cape in particular. The municipalities have applied concomitant action in servicing their debts with Eskom, it is unfortunate that Eskom has arrived to the decision of disconnecting,” Botes said in a press release soon after the power cuts.
AfriForum obtained an urgent interdict on Friday stopping Eskom from cutting electricity to Hopetown, Barkley West and Strydenburg.
Lucas and Botes will seek to convince Eskom to keep the lights on in the towns and to enter into new agreements with them. But they’ll also crack the whip on defaulting municipalities.
“The lack of leadership in this municipality is worrying and the MEC of Coghsta has summoned the Thembelihle leadership to his office,” Botes said.
Botes said it was worrying that municipalities keep falling behind on payments. “We have sent Municipal Managers from Coghsta to some of the municipalities to sort out some of the problems.”
Most of the municipalities were installing prepaid meters at new houses and where people are requesting them. This was working well. “That's why some municipalities are keeping up with their payments to Eskom,” Botes said.
But he called on municipalities to be cut-throat in their efforts to collect arrears. “If it’s a civil servant, police officer and so forth, they need to pay! Cut off their electricity,” he said.
Renosterberg municipality owes Eskom R26-million, Dithakong (Kuruman) R21-million, Ubuntu (Victoria West) R25.4-million, Magareng (Warrenton) R17-million and Thembelihle R22.6-million.
The other 27 municipalities in the province all have separate agreements with Eskom, which they are adhering to.