Electricity company Eskom is owed R632-million in outstanding payments by other African State-owned power utilities, the main opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Thursday, citing public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan.
Gordhan's response to questions in parliament showed that neighbouring Zimbabwe's ZESA owed more than half of that – R322-million – as that country faced an economic crunch due to political challenges which had left it unable to honour its debt obligations, DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone said.
Mozambique's Electricidade de Mocambique (EDM) owes R221-million while Zambia's ZESCO owes R89-million.
"While the minister might be of the view that this R632-million will have a minimal impact on Eskom’s cash flow, the reality is that every cent counts when the power utility has a mountain of debt in the area of more than R420-billion," Mazzone said.
"Half a billion rand is an astonishing amount of money and could, in the long term, go a long way in stabilising the financial woes at Eskom."
She said the DA had written to Gordhan requesting that he make public the payment plans Eskom had with the relevant foreign governments.
"In addition to this half a billion rand owed by foreign governments, the power utility is also owed close to R20-billion in outstanding debt from municipalities across the country," Mazzone noted.
"Clearly Eskom is incapable of collecting debts both at home and abroad. This begs the question, does Eskom actually have plans in place to collect debts owed to it? If not, the utility will never be able to stabilise its cash flow, and the taxpayer will continue to pay for bailout after bailout."
With the threat of rolling blackouts ever present, Eskom should first meet its obligations at home before overextending itself through power supplies to other countries, she added.