KZN municipalities drowning in R754 million of Eskom debt

Celani Sikhakhane

Covid-19 and the lockdown is being blamed for the failure of several KwaZulu-Natal municipalities to pay huge Eskom bills.

During the budget vote on Tuesday, Cogta MEC Sipho Hlomuka revealed the huge energy debts that have been racked up by five of the province’s municipalities.

The debt riddled districts include the embattled Msunduzi municipality, which owes R189 million to the energy provider.

The other districts are Endumeni, which owes R36 million, Newcastle (R137 million) and Ulundi (R99 million).

But according to Hlomuka, the district which owes the most to Eskom is Mooi Mpofana in the Umgungundlovu District, which has racked up a whopping R293 million in debt.

The Cogta MEC said that the giant debts are due to people losing their jobs during the pandemic and therefore not being able to pay municipal bills, including electricity.

The municipalities were apparently facing the threat of total blackout by Eskom but Hlomuka said his Department intervened to avoid the electricity supply being disconnected.

“While we were able to settle Eskom debt in full at the eDumbe, Mthonjaneni, Abaqulusi and Inkosi Langalibalele local municipalities, we still have municipalities that owe Eskom,” said Hlomuka.

He also revealed that their intervention had played a vital role in assisting four of these municipalities to reduce their Eskom debt.

Hlomuka said that Ulundi had initially owed the power utility R105m, Newcastle’s bill was previously at R264m while Msunduzi’s stood at R199.9m and Endumeni’s was R54.2m.