A third of South Africa can be dumped into darkness – report

Eskom has plans to cut off a third of municipalities in South Africa because they are not adhering to the conditions of their supply contracts.

This is according to Rapport, which quoted the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA).

Rapport said the breach of contracts which municipalities are guilty of included non-payment and exceeding the maximum electricity demand they agreed on.

Charles Hlebela, head of communications and stakeholder management at NERSA, confirmed a list of 92 municipalities whose power are set to be cut to Rapport.

Hlebela said NERSA is currently setting up tribunals to investigate the issue for each of the municipalities in the list.

He was, however, not willing to disclose which of the country’s 278 municipalities Eskom are planning to disconnect.

MyBroadband asked Eskom for feedback about its plans, but the company did not respond by the time of publication.

Cutting power to municipalities

Eskom’s plan to cut off municipalities for breach of contract, especially for non-payment, should not come as a surprise.

Eskom has previously highlighted that the Electricity Regulation Act of 2006 entitles it to interrupt electricity supply to non-paying customers.

Last month the Johannesburg High Court confirmed Eskom’s right to cut off delinquent municipalities in a landmark ruling.

In this case Pioneer Foods took Eskom to court, arguing that Eskom does not have the right to cut its power supply as it has paid its municipal electricity bill.

Eskom, in turn, said Pioneer Foods had no standing in the electricity supply agreement between Eskom and the municipality.

According to the power utility, Pioneer Foods is a customer of the municipality, and as such had no legal right to bring the case against Eskom to court.

The court ruled against Pioneer Foods, saying Eskom has the right to stop supplying municipalities and that it is an important and necessary right for its survival.

The ruling set the important legal principle that Eskom is only obliged to supply electricity to paying customers.

Eskom said it was now in a position to enhance its collective efforts from defaulting municipalities that owe the utility more than R31 billion in overdue debt.

Eskom has committed to ramping up its effort to collect the unpaid municipal debt to improve its own coffers.

It did, however, say that interruption of supply to municipalities is a last resort and only implemented after all other mechanisms have been exhausted.

Now read: Major power outages in Gauteng – Eskom explains

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A third of South Africa can be dumped into darkness – report