Eskom owed R23.5 billion by municipalities, debt increased in five months_1

Eskom is owed R23.5 billion by South Africa's municipalities,
according to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan. The amount has been
steadily increasing.


Gordhan revealed the debt in a written reply to the Democratic Alliance's (DA) Parliamentary question. The political party queried the power utility's overdue debt at the National Council of Provinces (NCOP).

Eskom's overdue municipality debt


In March this year, the Public Enterprises Minister revealed
that the overdue debt owed to Eskom by municipalities was standing at R19.9
billion. The debt had since increased by the end of August 2019 to R23.5
billion.


Between March and August 2019, the collective municipal debt
had increased by more than R3.5 billion. Gordhan was also questioned about the
conductor and cable theft issues that the state-owned power utility was
suffering.

Cable and conductor theft not helping debt


He revealed that, in recent years, conductor theft had also been on a rapid increase. The minister shared that there were 5150 incidents of cable theft for the 2018/19 financial year.


The police had managed to make 119 arrests in this regard for the 2018/19 financial year. The thefts have added onto Eskom's debt and growing woes.


Gordhan revealed that the theft of Eskom cables, conductors,
and other equipment amounted to R105 million for the same financial year.

Mabuza urges South Africans to pay debt


In September 2019, Deputy President David Mabuza blamed
increasing consumer debt for many municipalities finding it hard to meet their
payment obligations. Mabuza was speaking at a sitting of the NCOP.


At the time he revealed:


“The top 20 defaulting municipalities constitute 81% of total invoiced municipal arrear debt with total arrear debt of more than R100 million each. However, indications are, these figures have increased significantly over the past few months." David Mabuza, Deputy President


The deputy president also urged South Africans to alleviate
the burden of debt faced by municipalities. He encouraged the nation to
confront the culture of “non-payment,” especially with regards to consumer
debt.


Mabuza said:


“We must engender a culture of paying for services that have been rendered and consumed, especially from public entities like Eskom, just as we do with any other form of services rendered for private consumption.” David Mabuza, Deputy President


Eskom has endeavoured to disconnect areas that aren't paying
for their electricity connections to prevent an increased debt. The power
utility posts updates of its actions on its social media accounts.


In some areas, Eskom has gone as far as disconnecting
illegal connections to try and curb continued crimes.