NATIONAL NEWS - Desperate residents of Willowmore, Steytlerville and Jansenville are powerless in more ways than one, following power cuts of nearly seven hours daily due to debt owed to Eskom by the Dr Beyers Naudé Local Municipality (BNLM).
“Our town has no electricity and there’s nothing we can do. We don’t know who can help us,” says Chairperson of the Willowmore Business Chamber and Tourism Organisation, Jane Zayman.
According to her, this is not the first time that Eskom has threatened to pull the plug due to non-payment by the municipality, but it is the first time that it has been implemented.
Eskom implemented bulk electricity interruptions to the towns on Friday 23 October, stating that the municipality has breached its payment agreement with Eskom. “The interruptions will continue until the debt is paid in full or an acceptable repayment arrangement is reached,” read a statement provided by Zama Mpondwana, Spokesperson for Eskom in the Eastern Cape.
This week the towns will be left without electricity from 06:00 to 09:00 and again from 17:00 to 20:30. This coming Saturday and Sunday, the power outages will be from 08:30 to noon and again from 15:00 to 19:00.
Even darker days loom for the towns if BNLM doesn’t act soon, as Eskom will implement 13-hour outages starting Monday 2 November. Weekday and weekend outages will be from 06:00 to 20:00.
Business owners say the power cuts have already had a negative effect on business. “No power means no business,” says Saisur Rahman, owner of Smart Shopper. “I have lost many customers, and warm weather means our frozen food will go to waste.”
Willowmore guesthouse owner, El-Anne Smith, says some visitors have demanded discounts because of the power outages. “To make matters worse, our town’s water is shut off from 10:00 until 16:00 to save water,” she explains.
According to Zayman, Eskom threatened to cut power to the Karoo towns in 2018 and 2019, but an agreement was reached between BNLM and Eskom each time. “I can understand why Eskom is cutting power, and I don’t know how the municipality will pay them.” She added that a group of Willowmore residents will file a complaint of mismanagement against the municipality with the Willowmore SAPS this week.
The municipality said in a statement last week Friday that it will file an interdict against Eskom today (26 October) to prevent the power cuts. “We humbly apologize for the inconvenience caused, and ensure residents that the municipal council will do everything in its power to ensure interruptions are discontinued,” the statement read.
Further enquiry regarding the matter has been sent to BNLM.