Church of Eskom board chair owes over R2 million in unpaid electricity bills

The Sunday Times reports that Eskom board chair Mpho Makwana’s church, the International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC), owes Eskom over R2 million in unpaid electricity bills that were due on Thursday, 17 August 2023.

The IPHC has approximately 350 branches in South Africa, which host about 3 million members — and Makwana holds the role of IPHC Secretary of Council.

The church’s debt has reportedly been accumulating for months and is the result of the IPHC receiving its power directly from Eskom — not from a municipality.

At its headquarters in Zuurbekom, Gauteng, its monthly electricity bill is nearly R400,000 per month — yet over the past eight months, it has only paid about R1.1 million in total.

According to church insiders, the IPHC continues to spend millions on luxury cars for its leader, comforter Leonard Modise.

These cars include a Mercedes-Benz Maybach GLS worth more than R5 million, and Modise was also seen arriving at a church event in a R7 million Bently Mulsanne in April.

Makwana declined to respond to the Sunday Times’ questioning and deferred all questions to the IPHC spokesperson, Albie Wessie.

Wessie stressed that Makwana “is not involved with Eskom customer account matters” — although insiders dispute this by saying that Makwana sits on the church’s finance team.

“Yes, it is true that the church is owing R2m on the electricity bill,” added Wessie.

“We are on arrangements with Eskom and we are honouring that.”

However, the Sunday Times investigation found that the church missed its deadline to pay the amount owed — which would imply that it is not honouring its arrangement.

Mpho Makwana, Eskom chairmman

Eskom nails Emfuleni municipality

Eskom has been cracking down on customers who do not pay their debt to the power utility on time.

This is particularly evident when it comes to municipalities, such as when the Emfuleni Municipality racked up R5.3 billion in debt and failed to respond to Eskom’s attempts to get it to pay up.

Eskom took the municipality to court, and in November 2022, the High Court in Pretoria ordered the municipality to pay R1.3 billion of this debt.

Then, last month, the North Gauteng High Court ordered that Emfuleni hand over eight of its industrial customers’ electricity services to Eskom.

Judges Selby Baqwa, Gcina Malindi and acting Judge Irene de Vos said that while Emfuleni had collected R4.5-billion from electricity consumers – amounting to about 90% of all electricity bills – it was still heavily in debt due to “mismanagement, maladministration and a failure to keep the electricity business separate from its other affairs.”

“Not only is the debt gigantic in scale but it is also dynamic. It grows with every month … Its payments due to Eskom is hundreds of millions of rands every month,” said the judges.

“The scale of the debt has given rise to a state of disaster so grand … the court finds that Emfuleni has to yet realistically confront the state of disaster it has created.”

Taking control of Ekurhuleni load-shedding

Eskom has also been taking customers to task if it believes they aren’t implementing load-shedding correctly.

The power utility recently revoked the City of Ekurhuleni’s management of its rotational power cuts as it had not load-shed customers as instructed in the National Rationalised Specifications (NRS) Code of Practice.

“The CoE failed to comply by not adhering to the NRS 048-9:2019 code of practice, which requires electricity distributor licence holders to reduce load during a declaration of a system emergency,” said Eskom.

“The decision to take over load-shedding in Ekurhuleni follows monitoring and analysis conducted by Eskom, which indicate that the CoE is not reducing the load as per NRS 048-9:2019.”

Eskom added that it had repeatedly engaged with the municipality regarding its failure to load-shed its customers properly.

“The power utility has taken over this role of load-shedding the CoE’s customers following its contravention of the requirements of the standard in the past,” said Eskom.

“At the time, the CoE was only permitted to load-shed all the substations that feed critical loads. Subsequently, upon the CoE’s request, Eskom handed over the implementation of load-shedding of all the CoE customers to the municipality.”

Eskom then handed back control over load-shedding just a few days later after “the municipality committed to implement load shedding as per the NRS 048-9:2019 code of practice.”

Now read: Eskom’s death by a thousand cuts

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Church of Eskom board chair owes over R2 million in unpaid electricity bills