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Eskom to collect R4 billion debt from Soweto

Soweto residents owe half of South Africa’s R8 billion electricity debt to Eskom.

FILE: Eskom says it's making plans to recover the R4 billion that Soweto owes the power utility. Picture: AFP

JOHANNESBURG - Soweto residents are responsible for half of South Africa's R8 billion electricity debt to power utility Eskom.

The utility has been battling to keep the lights on and has had to implement load shedding to keep the grid stable.

Eskom's Khulu Phasiwe said, "We are making some plans to work with the Department of Cooperative Governance to make sure that all municipalities like Soweto are paying the money owed to us."

Municipalities in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Free State are largely to blame for the remaining R4 billion owed to Eskom.

The utility adds that around R2 billion is lost annually to electricity theft.

'R10 BILLION LOAN NOT A SIMPLE CASH BAILOUT'

Earlier this year, the utility announced that it was battling financially, particularly to buy diesel to keep generators running extensively in order to keep up with electricity demand.

While attending the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, in mid-January, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said government would inject more than R10 billion into the power utility to help keep the lights on.

But, he said the money to be given to Eskom by June this year was not a simple cash bailou.

The minister said both government and the private sector would be getting involved in the months to come to bring Eskom back on its feet.

Exact details of how government will be assisting the power utility will be revealed during Nene's first budget speech this month.

The utility has been battling to keep up with demands due to limited generating capacity, ageing infrastructure and several technical issues at its power stations.

The power utility said if it stopped importing electricity from neighbouring Namibia and Mozambique, it would not be able to continue maintenance or avoid load shedding.

The utility currently imports 200 megawatts from Namibia and 1,500 megawatts from Mozambique.

Eskom said it's paying a standard tariff for this extra electricity which is meant to fill the gap created by old systems going offline.

KOEBERG UNIT OFFLINE

This morning, Eskom said a unit at its Koeberg Power Station had been taken offline due to a technical fault, stripping almost 1,000 megawatts from the grid.

This move will further strain the country's already fragile power network.

Despite this fault, Eskom says the system is stable for now.

There's been sporadic load shedding since late last month. Last week Eskom cut power on at least two days.

Phasiwe says regular updates on the situation will be provided.

"Our aspiration is not to have load shedding at all during [this] week. But we must understand that we are running a very vulnerable power network which is prone to have technical faults."

Eskom also appealed to consumers to reduce electricity consumption this week in an effort to avoid further load shedding.

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