Eskom gives Free State reprieve on power cut

Johannesburg - Eskom has agreed to suspend the disconnection of bulk electricity to Free State municipalities, the power utility said on Friday.

"An agreement has been reached that allows for further detailed engagements and development of payment plans by all affected municipalities during August 2014," Eskom said.

The disconnection was planned to start on Monday.

No details on the agreement were available.

The Democratic Alliance welcomed the agreement between Eskom and the Free State provincial government on the municipal electricity debt.

However, the DA's David van Vuuren said the municipalities were unable to manage their finances.

Financial situation

"Free State municipalities are unable to manage their finances appropriately. They also fail dismally in the collection of outstanding revenue from residents," Van Vuuren said.

"Last year Free State municipalities failed to collect more than R5.4bn in household debt. Paying residents cannot be held responsible and threatened with suspension of services because of the incompetence of municipalities."

He said Eskom's non-payment by municipalities for services rendered should be dealt with by the cabinet.

The Free State provincial government was not in a healthy financial situation, he said.

"The Free State, at local and provincial government level, is heading toward a financial crisis," Van Vuuren said.

"The current state of affairs is indicative of an embedded culture of unaccountability, lack of transparency and recklessness within municipalities and provincial departments."

In September 2013, Eskom published a notice that it was planning to disconnect electricity to the Maluti-A-Phofung municipality, which failed to settle a bill of more than R205m.

Some of the money was outstanding for more than 90 days.

Eskom planned to disconnect power to the municipality on 4 December 2013.

Towns and municipal areas affected would have been Harrismith, QwaQwa, Kestell, Tshiame, Phuthaditjhaba, Tsheseng, and Witsieshoek.

A similar notice was published for the Ngwathe municipality, which apparently owed more than R188m.

Towns and areas affected by this notice were Edenville, Heilbron, Koppies, Parys, Phiritona, and Vredefort.