NATIONAL NEWS - Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan revealed in parliament that Eskom is owed R632 million in outstanding payments by foreign state-owned power utilities.
Zimbabwe’s ZESA owes R322 million, Mozambique’s EDM owes R221 million and Zambia’s ZESCO owes R89 million.
Gordhan revealed this in answer to a question from the Democratic Alliance (DA), who are now demanding to know what the minister plans to do to debt collect from our northern neighbours.
“While the Minister might be of the view that this R632 million will have a minimal impact on Eskom’s cash flow, the reality is that every cent counts when the power utility has a mountain of debt in the area of more than R420 billion,” said the party’s chief whip Natasha Mazzone in a statement.
“Half a billion rand is an astonishing amount of money and could, in the long term, go a long way in stabilising the financial woes at Eskom.”
“DA has written to Minister Gordhan to request that he makes public the payment plans that Eskom has with these foreign governments which owe the utility millions in unpaid debt.
“The public needs surety that Eskom and indeed National Government is truly doing the necessary work to ensure that these outstanding debts are being collected,” said Mazzone.
It was reported in BusinessTech that South African municipalities and individual users owed Eskom over R36.5 billion as at 30 June 2019.
Municipalities owe over R20 billion if interest is included, with the worst offender being Maluti-A-Phofung Municipality in the Free State, which owes just over R4 billion and an additional R1 billion in interest.
Mazzone slams government’s debt collecting skills – or lack thereof – in her statement.
“Clearly Eskom is incapable of collecting debts both at home and abroad. This begs the question, does Eskom actually have plans in place to collect debts owed to it?
“If not, the utility will never be able to stabilise its cash flow, and the taxpayer will continue to pay for bailout after bailout.”
The DA questions why SA is threatened with load shedding when Eskom continues to provide electricity to foreign governments who don’t pay for it.
“Minister [Gordhan] has cited economic and political challenges as well as financial constraints as reasons for the non-payment.
“However, at the end of the day it is inconceivable that Eskom is willing to hold South Africans to ransom with the burden of rolling blackouts while it is supplying electricity to foreign governments who are not even paying for it.
“With the threat of rolling blackouts ever present, Eskom should first meet its obligations here at home before it can ever think of overextending itself through power supplies to other countries,” says Mazzone.