Task team working hard on Eskom municipal debt

Cape Town – A Task Team set up to tackle the non-payment of Eskom debt by municipalities is working tirelessly to find solutions to the problems.

Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba said this when Ministers and Deputy Ministers in the Governance and Administration Cluster briefed the media on the cluster’s programme of action for the year ahead, following President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation Address, last month.

The Minister said to ensure that municipalities continue to provide services to communities. The Ministers of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Finance and Public Enterprises are continuing to engage in order to understand why municipalities are failing to pay Eskom.

“Generic short, medium and long-term recommendations were made by the Task Team to resolve non–payment of Eskom debts,” the Minister said on Thursday.

This comes after Public Enterprises Minister Lynne Brown instructed Eskom in January to give municipalities more time to clear their outstanding arrears before switching off the lights.

At the time, the Minister said cutting electricity supply not only affected individual ratepayers and municipalities, it would also have an impact on businesses and jobs.

Municipalities owed Eskom about R10 billion, the Minister said at the time.

Answering questions in the National Assembly on Wednesday afternoon, Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Des Van Rooyen said the department had engagements with various stakeholders towards resolving some of the structural challenges that are impeding the resolution of the outstanding debt challenge.

He said the department was, as part of the Ministerial Task Team established to tackle Eskom debt, in discussion with the Premiers and MECs of various provinces as well as executive mayors of respective municipalities regarding these problems.

Briefing journalists in Cape Town on Thursday, Minister Gigaba said engagements between various departments were ongoing. 

“To this effect, COGTA Ministry continues to coordinate meetings with various role-players, including municipalities, Eskom and SALGA to try find an amicable solution that takes into account the various challenges facing municipalities.”

Support to municipalities identified during Back to Basics assessments

The Minister said, meanwhile, that the department was, through the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency (MISA), providing support to municipalities within 32 Districts prioritised for support during the Back to Basics assessments.

He said the support, multi-disciplinary teams comprising technical professionals, had been dispatched to municipalities to resolve challenges through their expertise.

“The Technical Support programme supported municipalities such as Sekhukhune District Municipalities, Bushbuckridge, Maluti-A-Phofung, Oudtshoorn, among others, that enabled them to improve improvement spending on their municipal infrastructure grant allocations and to address the refurbishment of infrastructure assets to improve their functionality and restore services provision.

“Six and eight municipalities in the Eastern Cape and North West respectively were supported to drill or rehabilitate the borehole for supplying water to various settlements.

“Among municipalities that benefited from this support was Alfred Nzo, OR Tambo, Dr Segomotsi Ruth Mompati and Ngaka Modiri Molema District Municipalities,” he said. – SAnews.gov.za