Makhanda lights stay on

Image: Dean Hutton/Bloomberg

The lights will stay on in Makhanda for now after Eskom and the Makana municipality concluded a payment agreement that will see the local authority paying the power utility about R44m in arrears between now and 2022.

The payment agreement was on Thursday made an order of the high court in Makhanda, meaning the municipality could be found in contempt of court if it reneges on it.

According to court papers, it has reneged on several other payment plans it has signed with Eskom.

The agreement will see Makana paying Eskom about R7m in six instalments between now and March 2022.

The municipality’s hand was forced when the Grahamstown Residents’ Association, Grahamstown Business Forum and local businesses resorted to court to interdict Eskom from carrying out its threat to introduce bulk electricity supply interruptions.

Despite being a respondent in the court case, the Makana municipality did not brief counsel to represent it.

This left Eskom and the other parties in the case free to put together a high court-sanctioned plan to force it to pay its massive, overdue Eskom debt.

In subsequent meetings between the parties and the municipality, a payment plan was forged.

Apart from paying off the R44m, the municipality has agreed to keep up with its current account with the bulk electricity supplier.

If it defaults on any of its scheduled repayments, the municipality has agreed Eskom can take judgment against it.

The order of court also stipulates that the Makana municipality must pay the legal costs incurred by both Eskom and the businesses.