According to the latest official numbers from Eskom, there are 900,000 South Africans registered to receive free basic electricity from the power utility.
In response to questions from MyBroadband related to the adoption of its Free Basic Electricity (FBE) programme, the power utility said that of this number, 700,000 claimed their electricity vouchers.
It noted, however, that this was based on data from May 2020 and did not provide an estimate of current FBE beneficiary numbers.
The Free Basic Electricity Programme is an initiative aimed at poor households who are unable or struggle to afford basic electricity costs.
“The Free Basic Electricity Programme is a programme of the government, through which it aims to provide some free electricity to indigent households,” Eskom said.
How it works
Eskom explained that free basic electricity is applied for via municipalities, which are then reimbursed by Eskom.
“Through municipalities, the government pays for their electricity vouchers that can be redeemed monthly for free electricity,”
“Upon presentation of the voucher, which can be obtained by visiting your local municipal office, Eskom will credit the customer with the amount decided by the municipality, which ranges between R50 and R150 per month, depending on the municipality.”
This means that in May 2020, Eskom spent anywhere between R35 million and R105 million on providing free basic electricity to indigent South Africans.
The municipality pays Eskom directly for any electricity claimed under the programme.
Eskom said that to qualify for free basic electricity, households must earn R3,500 per month or less.
Eskom cracks down on non-paying customers
A recent court victory for Eskom has cemented its right to turn off the electricity of non-paying customers.
The case was brought against the utility by Pioneer Foods and sought to overturn a 2018 decision by Eskom to interrupt electricity supply to the Walter Sisulu Municipality.
The municipality had failed to pay for electricity, following which Eskom had interrupted its access to power.
As of December 2019, the municipality had incurred a debt of R222 million to Eskom.
Municipalities in South Africa owe Eskom a collective total of R31 billion in overdue electricity payments, with Eskom stating that this case would help it to enhance its collection efforts.