- Party says task-team was still looking into the issue
- Eskom says action based on the court ruling
The ANC in the Free State has expressed regret at the attachment of Maluti-A-Phofung Local Municipality’s (MAP) movable assets by Eskom but feels the power utility could have allowed room for dialogue.
Eskom obtained a court order in the South Gauteng High Court to attach movable assets from the municipality which owes it over R2.8 billion for bulk electricity supplies.
The company, with the aid of the of the office of the Deputy Sheriff, descended on the municipality on Wednesday and removed several computers, laptops, printers as well as furniture from the offices of the council.
However, the ANC feels Eskom might have jumped the gun in attaching MAP assets because a task team set up by government to look into issues of non-payment of electricity has still not completed its work.
ANC provincial spokesperson Thabo Meeko said they were of the view that the matter was still being addressed by a task team set up by Cooperative Goverance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) minister Zweli Mkhize.
“It is unfortunate that Eskom has reached this decision,” said Meeko.
“Our understanding is that this huge debt is caused by interest that is piled on the original debt owed to the utility. There is also what Eskom calls maximum electricity demand which also adds to the burden of debt by councils. It’s also sad that Eskom takes these measures while there is a task team set up… to look into this debt issue,” he noted.
Meeko said by taking this drastic action, Eskom undermined the spirit of co-operative governance which centres on ensuring service delivery to the residents.
“Our principled view as the ANC is that indeed people have to pay for the services they receive, but we hope the task team, which has officials from the province in its midst, will move with speed in resolving this matter,” said the ANC provincial spokesperson.
Eskom provincial spokesperson Stephanie van Rensburg said the attachment of the assets and the work of the task team were parallel processes and the attachment of assets was not meant undermine the discussions.
“While there was a task team that was set up “(by local government minister minister Zweli Mkhize), to attend to issues of non-payment in MAP, there was also a dual court process where Eskom had taken MAP to court, and the court ruled that their assets be attached,” said Van Rensburg.
MAP has 11 000 electricity customers but it has been struggling in recent years to collect enough revenue to service its debt.
It now tops the list of municipalties failing to pay Eskom to keep their lights on.
Defaulting municipalities across the country collectively owe Eskom R9.73 billion. The power utility has vowed to get each cent owed paid as it strives to improve its service delivery.