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Eskom doing all it can to get municipalities to pay up - De Ruyter

Last week, Eskom cut power to the Western Cape’s rail systems due to nonpayment.

New Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter at a briefing at Megawatt Park on 31 January 2020. Picture: Bonga Dlulane/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Eskom CEO Andrew de Ruyter said the power utility was doing all it could to get municipalities and companies to pay their electricity bills.

Last week, Eskom cut power to the Western Cape’s rail systems due to nonpayment.

Tens of thousands of Metrorail train commuters were left stranded for hours at platforms.

Power was eventually restored after the rail operator completed payment for the R4 million electricity bill.

The Eskom CEO said companies and municipalities needed to pay for the electricity they used.

“We also are engaging with the municipalities and those residents who did not pay due to arriving at some resolution of some of these long outstanding debts, we are engaged with Nersa and a number of issues to improve a number of our tariffs situations, because, at the end of the day, we need to address the R450 billion of debt that has accumulated over the number of years and we need to find a solution to that and, of course, of municipalities and companies that don’t pay us. That debt just becomes more and more onerous.”

De Ruyter also said while the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) must be commended for coming up with a proposal to use workers’ pensions to bail out the power utility, the Public Investment Corporation (PIC) must be given space to decide if that was a viable option.

The labour federation has proposed that a special purpose vehicle be put together to include the Unemployment Insurance Fund, PIC, Development Financing Institution and Development Bank to take over 50% of Eskom’s over R450 billion debt.

The president, who gave the proposal the nod, announced on Monday that an agreement on the matter would be finalised before the end of this month.

Cosatu’s proposal is almost as good as a done deal.

It was endorsed by the African National Congress (ANC)’s NEC lekgotla and government, business and labour under Nedlac.

De Ruyter has told Eyewitness News that he can’t say if the proposal was good or bad.

“I’m not necessarily saying that it’s a good or a bad thing to use workers’ pensions to fund or support Eskom.”

But the PIC, which is entrusted with managing the pension funds, indicated last month that it wasn’t consulted.

De Ruyter said space must be given to the PIC: “They obviously have obligations they need to comply with. So, from that perspective, we’d rather leave it to the people who are accountable for managing those funds.”

He said he believed what Cosatu had done was open up the space to explore alternative funding mechanisms to alleviate the burden of Eskom’s debt.