Light at the end of tunnel in Makhanda

Municipality set to pay part of R90m debt

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Makana municipality officials are making moves to ensure the town of Makhanda is not plunged into darkness – by committing to pay R12m to Eskom by April 4.
The city of Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) is facing a looming blackout as the municipality owes Eskom about R90m dating back to 2013.
Last week, Eskom issued a notice to local media warning that the electricity supply would be cut.
The notice saw the Grahamstown Business Forum file a high court notice of motion calling for the municipality to intervene.
Makana mayor Mzukisi Mpahlwa said the crisis was being actively addressed while the municipality would negotiate a new payment plan with Eskom.
“We are addressing this issue with the seriousness it deserves. We understand that the notice that was issued by Eskom has caused great panic and anxiety among local residents and businesses alike.
“We empathise with all of you and we would like you to know that we are actively addressing this issue,” Mpahlwa said.
Mpahlwa said some of the short-term plans included placing a moratorium on filling vacancies and reducing expenditure on overtime.
“We are planning to pay an amount of R12.6m to Eskom this month.
“We will also seek to renegotiate our payment plan to ensure that we can afford to make monthly payments to Eskom.
“Once this payment is made we don’t expect Eskom to go ahead with bulk supply interruptions.”
Mpahlwa added that the municipality, along with co-operative governance & traditional affairs officials, would meet Eskom next week to discuss and review the current payment plan.
Mpahlwa said the prevailing method of using equitable share (a financial allocation in the form of an unconditional grant that enables municipal-
ities to provide basic services) to pay Eskom had proven unsustainable.
“Going forward the municipality needs to pay its current account from revenue generated from electricity sales.
“Various debt-collecting and revenue-enhancement initiatives are being implemented, but these do not yield immediate results,” Mpahlwa said.
“It is my wish that all the measures that are put in place to address this issue bear fruit so that we can ensure an uninterrupted electricity supply.
“Once the historical debt is settled we can then focus on all of our service-delivery obligations,” he said.
The plans, however, have been received with a pinch of salt by the Grahamstown Busi-
ness Forum.
Forum chair Richard Gaybba said the arrangement would not be sustainable.
“The payment is only one small element; the municipality has an agreement with Eskom; they either have to enter into a new agreement or stick to the old one,” Gaybba said.
“We know that they pay Eskom with money from equitable share.
“It still doesn’t cover the electricity payments that are paid by consumers which is supposed to be paid to Eskom.”
Gaybba said it would continue with its court action to compel the council to end its impasse with Eskom.
“The court action is going ahead, regardless of whether or not this payment is made,” he said.
Meanwhile DA Eastern Cape leader and premier candidate Nqaba Bhanga, at a press briefing at the Makhanda city hall, outlined the party’s plan to keep the lights on in South Africa.
Bhanga said it would, among other things, change the law to allow cities to buy electricity from many independent power producers.
“We also intend to rapidly recruit engineers back into Eskom so that power stations can be properly maintained.
“Part of our plan also includes allowing Eskom to buy coal from any source while freezing the build on the last two costly units at the Kusile power station, which is a waste of money and won’t be completed in time,” Bhanga said...

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