According to a report by the Gauteng Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) submitted to the Gauteng legislature’s CoGTA committee, Soweto owes Eskom more than R17 billion, which is half of the country’s debt to Eskom.
The information came to light last month when a FF Plus spokesperson, Amanda de Lange, announced it by way of a statement.
According to De Lange, “the default culture of electricity consumers in Soweto is probably the biggest cause of Eskom being forced to its knees”.
Soweto’s default has been going on for years and politicians have been trying unsuccessfully to persuade power consumers to pay portions of their debt. Threats to cut the power supply also serve no purpose. Residents insist the ANC promised free electricity and water to voters in their election pledges. The culture of non-payment has now become a legacy of the ANC struggle.
Meanwhile, the national power supply is struggling to survive financially and has hit a low in 2018. The situation is aggravated by other non-payers, fiscal irregularities, fraud and mismanagement.
Eskom also seems to have no workable plan to collect the R34bn owed by underperforming municipalities.
In addition, Eskom’s operational capacity is also not as desired and unauthorized tariff increases over years have not brought relief.
“Further pressure is being placed on the paying middle class citizen to carry the debt burden and responsibilities of non-payers and underperforming municipalities in an environment where municipalities’ debt burden has increased by about 80% over the past eighteen months,” says Amanda de Lange.
Although the ANC government is trying to throw a lifeline to the debt-ridden Eskom, the fiscal and operational damage is already very high and there is little hope that a sustainable financial turnaround can be achieved. An action plan to recover Soweto’s arrears on an urgent basis is bleak.
“The issue is a headache for the Department of Collaborative Government, but stringent measures need to be put in place amid increasing impoverishment of consumers to provide alternative power to households,” says De Lange.