For nearly two weeks, employees at the Eastern Cape Department of Education’s district department offices in Nelson Mandela Bay have been in the dark after the municipality disconnected electricity supply as a result of schools in the metro raking up more than R8-million in municipal debt.
Yesterday, the municipality confirmed the supply to the Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage district offices had been disconnected on March 28.
Power outages at the department’s Port Elizabeth and Uitenhage offices have become a common occurrence, mainly due to the municipal debt of schools which are in arrears.
In December, electricity to the department’s offices was also cut due to R5.4-million municipal debt.
Municipal spokesman Mthubanzi Mniki said power would only be restored when the Education Department’s debt had been settled.
He said the amount in arrears as at March 27 was R8 461 370.38.
“Reconnection will only take place once the payments reflect in the NMBM bank account,” Mniki said.
“It is not in the interest of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality to cut off government departments who offer services to residents.
“The cut-off comes as the last option when all attempts to recover the money owed by that particular department have failed.”
Provincial education spokesman Malibongwe Mtima said the department had an undertaking with the municipality for it to disconnect the department’s electricity if schools are unable to pay their bills. “We did this because it is difficult for us to know when an individual school’s power has been cut,” Mtima said.
“In this way we are able to intervene to deal with the municipal debt.”
Mtima said the municipality also provided the department with a list of schools that were in arrears and the amounts owed.
He said the bills had largely been accumulated by Section 21 schools that were responsible for their own finances.
Mtima said the department was working towards having the power restored.