COMMUNITIES around the Northern Cape have started to raise concerns over the huge debt owed by municipalities to the power utility Eskom.
Reportedly municipalities have a collective debt of R400m to Eskom.
Residents of Siyancuma local municipality participated in a peaceful march over the high Eskom bill that the municipality owes. The municipality’s outstanding debt to Eskom is R92m.
Community leader Henry du Doit said the community of Douglas has been facing unexplained power interruptions for more than a week.
“We are struggling with electricity, we have been waking up in the morning without electricity.
“For the past two weeks we have had no electricity in the mornings between 6am and 9am and evenings between 5 and 8pm,” Toit said.
Du Toit said while the march was to address issues such as service delivery the priority remains the Eskom outstanding bill by the municipality.
“We are concerned about our electricity rates. They are high and now we have to live without electricity but the community will be facing power cuts until we have a conclusion with Eskom,” he said.
Municipal manager Xolile Gego said the municipality understands the concerns of community members.
Gego said they met with officials regarding what action the municipality would take.
“We have met with the council to discuss the problem and we will try and get back to them with the positive response,” he said.
Gego said they were collecting far less revenue than what was needed to pay.
He said that the revenue the municipality raised from consumers was low and that “most of the services are not paid for so hence we cannot service our Eskom bill”.
“We are buying more and selling less. But we have been paying Eskom for the past three months,” Gego said.
Earlier this month Eskom spokesperson, Khulu Phasiwe, said the utility was monitoring payment agreements made between them and the defaulting municipalities.
Phasiwe said a lot had been done through the engagements with the provincial government which ensured that lights are kept on.
Treasury MEC, Mac Jack, has also raised concern about the Eskom debt saying it was a worrying factor that needed to be addressed urgently.
“In an attempt to address this issue, the provincial treasury assisted to reconcile outstanding accounts and facilitated communication between municipalities and departments.
“We also pilot three municipalities to improve data integrity on the billing system and build strong internal controls in the revenue section,”Jack said.