Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba will engage with Eskom officials over the power utility’s apparent threats that it will not repair infrastructure in areas where there are high levels of non-payment.
Mashaba said he received some complaints from Soweto residents who called for his intervention.
It was previously reported that Soweto has been ranked as one of the top defaulters in the country, where residents owe Eskom more than R17bn.
“I wrote to Eskom requesting a meeting within the next 48 hours in reaction to Eskom’s alleged institution of credit management procedures across entire communities, due to certain residents’ failure to pay their electricity accounts.
“This follows several complaints to my office, by some residents of Soweto. It is also alleged that Eskom has resolved not to maintain or repair their own infrastructure in areas where there are high levels of non-payment of Eskom accounts,” he said.
“I feel compelled to enter the fray and intervene on behalf of paying residents, who face unfair punishment at the hands of Eskom due to the actions of a few residents.
“Should the allegations against Eskom prove to be true, it would amount to a blanket punishment, and taken to their logical conclusion, are a violation of residents’ rights as well as a gross abuse of power,” said Mashaba.
“In the face of the massive corruption which has crippled the energy regulator and the substantial tariff increases already provided to the power utility, which has only served to punish law-abiding residents for the corruption at the entity, the proposed means of credit management only serves to further punish paying residents.
“If it is indeed true that Eskom has taken a decision not to repair or maintain infrastructure in areas with high levels of non-payment, I find this to be rather disturbing,” he said.
Mashaba said Eskom had a legal obligation to provide electricity to residents who honoured their financial obligations to the utility.
He said if Eskom failed to heed his request, he would have no choice but to institute urgent dispute resolution proceedings with the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa).
In a statement released by Eskom on Wednesday, the power utility said it was experiencing an increasing number of repeated equipment failures, in some areas, especially in Gauteng.
Eskom said the increase was primarily due to illegal connections, leading to overloading which results in the failure of transformers and mini-substations. This is exacerbated by meter tampering, electricity theft and vandalism of infrastructure.
“Increased equipment failure has a significant negative impact on our operations, finances and safety of our employees and the public. Eskom has taken a decision that it will not be restoring power to areas that have repeated failures due to illegal connections, meter tampering and bypassing.
“Eskom will only restore supply to legal and paying customers in the areas, on condition that the community allows safe access to Eskom staff to conduct audits and remove illegal connections,” read the statement.