10 'worst municipalities' in Parliament over R14 billion debt

They blame high unemployment, resistance from consumers to pay and illegal electricity connections for their inability to pay the parastatal.

FILE: Parliament of South Africa in Cape Town. Picture: Christa Eybers/Eyewitness News.

CAPE TOWN - Municipalities that owe Eskom billions for bulk electricity supply have painted a bleak picture of their finances.

They blame high unemployment, resistance from consumers to pay and illegal electricity connections for their inability to pay the parastatal. Municipalities owe Eskom R14 billion collectively.

For the first time, the 10 worst municipalities are appearing before Parliament's Standing Committee on Public Accounts (Scopa) to explain their non-payment.

Matjhabeng Municipality in the Free State is one of the municipalities that owes Eskom the most money, with an amount of R1.7 billion.

But it says that consumers are stealing from the municipality through illegal connections and it's losing out on revenue from mining houses who have direct supply agreements with Eskom.

The municipality says it will take 13 years to pay off the debt to Eskom and that's only if it services the capital amount without taking interest into account.

Matjhabeng Mayor Nkosenjani Speelman says: "One of the issues, chair, that Parliament should take into consideration is the challenge of departments not paying the municipalities what is owed to us."

The Emalahleni Local Municipality is disputing the R1.7 billion that Eskom says it owes.

But it faces similar issues, saying that consumers living in former mining villages are refusing to pay, and threatening councillors who try to get them to settle their debts.

(Edited by Shimoney Regter)