In South Africa, state-owned power utility Eskom has presented Soweto residents with a unique deal: install prepaid meters and revise their electricity debt or have their power cut off.
The Gauteng general manger of Eskom Bandile Jack, told City Press that the power company was open to renegotiation should residents, who are indebted by an estimated ZAR8 billion, comply with the deal.
Pay your debt
Jack said: “We’re saying people should at least pay for the actual [current] consumption. At a later stage, we will definitely embark on a process of credit management with them.”
Jack said that the power utility will approach indebted residents to present its offer.
Jack explained: “It is not like we’re targeting Soweto, but we’re tightening the screws to ensure that people pay for services.”
He added: “We’re going to switch off those who continue not paying, but we will give them bills, afford them some time to pay and, if they fail to do this, we’ll take action.”
According to Jack, the power company would consider erasing a portion of the outstanding debt if the customer agrees to go ahead with the prepaid meter deal.
Jack said: “We’ll put customers on prepaid and monitor them. If they buy their electricity, manage their consumption well, don’t bridge the prepaid meter or do anything that is illegal, then we will look at that option. But it won’t be a blanket thing, as we’ll look at individual cases.”
In May, residents of Orlando West began protesting against the installation of prepaid meters as they believed that the systems would charge them more than per normal.
These residents are demanding that Eskom remove the prepaid meters from their homes and implement a monthly fixed rate of ZAR400 ($32).
This demand was rejected by Public Enterprises Minster Lynne Browne who said that a flat rate for Soweto means that every other township in the country would demand one too.
City Press asked Jack if Eskom would be left with no option but to attach people’s homes to recover outstanding debts, he responded: “It depends. If you don’t pay, we will get to a point where we do certain things. But we don’t want it to go there.”
Jack said that Eskom would implement an educational programme to educate communities on the benefits of installing a prepaid meter.
Jack said: “We will soon go back and engage communities and make them understand the benefits of us upgrading the network and putting in prepaid meters.”
He concluded: “Thereafter, we will go ahead, install prepaid meters and embark on our credit-management processes, and we will cut off those people who are not paying their bills.”