light-bulb
light-bulb
The 72 schools fall within the jurisdiction of the Matjhabeng Municipality, one of the top 10 defaulting municipalities for electricity bills

In South Africa, the Matjhabeng Municipality in the Free State has disconnected the power supply to 72 public schools in its jurisdiction due to the late payment of electricity fees totalling ZAR11 million.

David van Vuuren, the Democratic Alliance’s chief whip in the Free State legislature, commented: “Considering that the municipality owes Eskom ZAR600 million, the ZAR11 million owed by public schools is really minimal,” News24 reported.

Pay your dues

The South African news provider reported that the provincial Department of Public Works is at fault for not making the necessary payments to the municipality, as they are responsible for the payment of bulk services to these no-fee schools.

Public Works MEC Sam Mashinini stated that the department is in arrears of an estimated ZAR265 million for the payment of municipal services across the province, News24 reported.

Leonie Kleynhans, MPL and member of the portfolio committee on public works, said: “Until now the municipalities have been patient, because they knew the bills will be paid eventually. But their own debt is running into the millions, with the result that they are under pressure to get the money owed to them.”

Defaulting municipalities

In April, ESI Africa reported that the Matjhabeng Municipality was in the top 20 defaulting municipalities in South Africa, owing Eskom a combined ZAR3.68 billion for the bulk supply of electricity.

Zethembe Khoza, board member at Eskom, said: “Non-payment for electricity undermines Eskom’s statutory obligation to generate and supply electricity to municipalities nationally on a financially sustainable basis.

“We have therefore decided to exercise our right according to the provisions of the Electricity Regulation Act 4 of 2006 and the supply agreement with municipalities, which entitled us to disconnect the supply of electricity to defaulting municipalities.”

Regulated interruption schedule

Eskom has stated that disconnection of electricity supply will unfortunately cause undue hardship to consumers and members of the community, and may adversely affect the delivery of other services, however, customer disconnection is always the last resort explored.

Head of the Free State public works department Maditse Seoke told News24 that he was not aware of the power outages at the 72 schools in question.

Payment agreements

Since the April announcement, the state-owned power utility has signed 10 payment agreements with 10 of the defaulting municipalities, recouping a total of ZAR54 million.

Eskom stated that those who entered into the agreements would not be affected by the bulk electricity interruptions.

However, Eskom stressed that municipalities have to comply consistently with payment agreement terms on a monthly basis. If these conditions are not met, interruptions of supply will be implemented without further notice.

Eskom acting chief executive Brian Molefe said: “Eskom has reached a point where it can no longer continue to provide power without receiving payment in return.”

He added: “We are pleased that these 10 municipalities are doing their bit to ensure that they reduce the debt owed to Eskom and we encourage all defaulting municipalities to do the same.”