Municipality threatens non-paying suburbs with seven-hour blackouts

The eMalahleni municipality in Mpumalanga has decided to cut power to non-paying residents to try to enforce payment and help the municipality pay off its debt to Eskom. File photo.
The eMalahleni municipality in Mpumalanga has decided to cut power to non-paying residents to try to enforce payment and help the municipality pay off its debt to Eskom. File photo.
Image: Sunday Times/Esa Alexander

In a bid to reduce its R3.4bn debt to Eskom, the eMalahleni municipality in Mpumalanga decided to cut power to residents in areas of the town where high numbers of consumers don't pay their utility bills.

The municipality said this followed Eskom giving them a two-week deadline to pay R397m out of the total owed.

“Statistics from the credit control division have indicated that the 19,000 residents in the western area have the highest debt, and very low cut-off action is occurring [there],” the municipality said in a separate statement.

The cut-off action had proven to be very effective in the past, it said.

“The municipality has developed a programme in an attempt to recoup more money from the defaulting residents in a massive manner, and hope for a drastic response in payment,” it said, adding that this power-cutting measure had previously worked.  

“The scheduled programme will include a ‘bulk cut off’ in areas with a very low payment rate, and unless a payment of 50% of that area improves, power will not be restored.

"There will be areas that will be subjected to seven-hour load-shedding to force the residents to pick up the payment rate."

The municipality said in the past, staff deployed to cut power for non-paying consumers and those with illegal connections were met with resistance by the community. 

It warned that should resistance be encountered this time, there would be dire consequences for all residents.

“In the event the community resists the council employees' attempts to cut off, or the community members engage in illegal connections, the area will be subjected to a bulk cut off,” the municipality said.


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