Mooi River blackouts crisis

Mooi-Mpofana faces blackouts from Monday (July 8) due to about R120 million owed to Eskom.

Last month the state utility published a notice that it would implement loadshedding day and night for two weeks, unless Mpofana acted urgently to pay off the debt.

Mayor of Mpofana (Mooi River) Councillor Xolani Duma told The Meander Chronicle on Friday that the council had had a meeting that morning regarding Eskom’s loadshedding threat, and determined that acting municipal manager Jonny Mogatsie should take the power utility to court.

Proactive

Duma said there were other municipalities that owed far more than Mooi River, yet Mpofana was being victimised.

He said the municipality had been proactive. It had recently paid R6m to Eskom and undertaken to pay more than R1 million monthly towards the debt.

In light of the fact that the municipality was “underfunded” and struggling to collect funds, yet was being proactive, Eskom should allow more leeway and give it time, he said.

Mpofana mayor Xolani Duma. Picture: Facebook

Duma said the municipality had provided its financial statements to the parastatal and had co-operated fully. It had also, in partnership with the Department of Co-operative Governance (Cogta), engaged all stakeholders, and communicated with business owners, residents and farmers on the need for collections and for them to urgently settle outstanding amounts.

Plight

He said the council’s plight was exacerbated by the fact that it was owed millions for electricity provided to state-owned farms, which were run by community trusts and Communal Property Associations (CPAs). It had made a decision to appoint debt collectors to recover these funds.

Investigations were being carried out regarding the township, Bruntville, in terms of what was owed and the rate at which residents were being charged.

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In an earlier Witness article, Eskom said the loadshedding came as a result of Mpofana’s breach of its payment obligation, which “undermines and places in jeopardy Eskom’s ability to continue the national supply of electricity on a financially sustainable basis”.

A recent TimesLive article said the Department of Co-operative Governance chiefly blamed the situation on some resident failing to pay their bills.

“We want to ensure that they don’t terminate electricity for everyone. But the municipality, working with Cogta, is going to develop a billing system that will check those who are not paying and then we engage them to pay,” Cogta MEC Sipho Hlomuka said in an interview with SAfm last month.

Mayor Duma said the whole of Mooi River faced loadshedding during peak hours.

Bruntville residents have threatened to blockade the N3 highway and bring the town to a standstill if their electricity is cut off.

Cash-strapped Mooi-Mpofana was placed under administration by Cogta last year after a forensic investigation revealed maladministration and allegations of fraud and corruption.

What is owed to Mooi-Mpofana (figures provided by the municipality)
*Agriculture – R7.6m;
*Commercial – R21.2m
*State Debt – R3.3m
*Residential, town – R8.8m
*Residential, Bruntville and Townview – R49.8m
*Indigent debtors – R13.2m

The Meander Chronicle is attempting to get comment from Eskom and Cogta, and will update this article when more information is available.

Main picture: Fré Sonneveld/Unsplash

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