The City of Johannesburg’s plan to take over distribution from Eskom faces several costly hurdles, including R7.5 billion in outstanding consumer debt and R4 billion to take ownership of distribution infrastructure.

Electricity supply has turned into a critical election issue in Gauteng, where communities have borne the brunt of ‘load reduction’ by Eskom.

Joburg Mayor Mpho Moerane says, “Soweto and all these areas, prior to 1990/91, they were supplied electricity by the City of Johannesburg. Eskom wanted to accelerate electrification and decided that both parties, the city and Eskom that they transfer Soweto into Eskom. There was a debt. That debt was not taken over by Eskom. It remains with the city, the city wrote it off. Eskom took the supply areas without taking the debt. We are saying let’s implement the same methodology that we did around 1990/91 but we can’t take over the debt because we don’t have that money.”

Soweto to start sourcing power from City Power: Joburg Mayor

Moerane says Soweto and other parts of the city will start sourcing electricity from City Power.

Eskom has been battling to get payments from the residents.

Soweto residents owe Eskom billions of rands in unpaid bills.

Through negotiations with the city, R5 billion of the debt was written off in the past financial year.

Moerane says negotiations in this matter are at an advanced stage.

“We have a plan, we are not going to rely solely on electricity. We will be investing money [on] solar and gas to those households that they can not afford electricity. Issue of non-payment in Soweto has been there for a long time.”

“We are going to talk to our residents that we will have to give them smart meters. Smart meters will be ale to interact with your meter through a smartphone to look at your consumption,” adds Moerane.