POLITICAL NEWS - Musina residents in Limpopo who faced forced power outages during the coldest part of winter can breathe a sigh of relief, after Eskom undertook not to continue with the planned cuts.
Eskom’s undertaking warded off a threatened urgent application by business rights watchdog AfriBusiness and the residents, after the utility gave notice on June 29 that it would start with power cuts starting today because the local municipality owed it R72 million.
Eskom only gave the undertaking after court papers for an urgent interdict were served on it.
AfriBusiness director Piet le Roux said it appeared as if Eskom and the Musina local municipality had reached a temporary settlement about the outstanding debt, but the watchdog remained concerned that the problem could crop up again.
Le Roux said: “Local municipalities all over the country are facing massive financial problems and there is no reason to believe that a temporary diversion of funds would solve anything.
“Although we’re satisfied that the lights would remain on in Musina on Friday [today], we’re concerned that the settlement afforded Eskom a way out of its legal quandary.”
He said AfriBusiness would remain vigilant in protecting local economies against wasteful local municipalities and Eskom.
“We will continue monitoring the situation in Musina and remain in contact with our members in other municipalities where Eskom is threatening to interrupt the electricity supply,” said Le Roux. “Legal questions remain unanswered and we are ready to intervene in similar situations to develop the necessary legal principle.”
Le Roux said at the heart of the matter was that the public was being prejudiced by the cumulation of governmental incompetence. A national solution, he says, is needed to stop the public from being prejudiced where different government structures have in effect collapsed.
“AfriBusiness will not remain on the sidelines while government incompetence destroys local economies,” he said.
The High Court in Pretoria last month interdicted Eskom from cutting the electricity supply to the Kgetlengrivier local municipality in Rustenburg, North West, because of outstanding debts, pending a review application that must be instituted before the end of this month.
The court order followed an application by concerned residents of the local municipality, who objected to their electricity supply being cut despite payments of their accounts being up to date.
Other municipalities at risk of power cuts include Barkly West, Koster, Swartruggens, and Vryburg in North West, Mookgopong and Naboomspruit in Limpopo, and Secunda in Mpumalanga.