Mpumalanga municipalities lament Eskom power cuts

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Eskom’s power cuts are having a negative impact on businesses around Sabie in Mpumalanga. Sabie is part of the Thaba Chweu Local Municipality which is one of three municipalities in the province that are struggling to settle debts of hundreds of millions of rand to Eskom.

Eskom started cutting power at the beginning of October to three municipalities in the province. The affected municipalities are Dipaleseng in Balfour, Govan Mbeki in Secunda and Thaba Chweu in Mashishing, Lydenburg.

The power cuts led to community protests in these municipalities. Thaba Chweu alone owes Eskom over R350 million.

In areas such as Sabie, the power cuts are now tarnishing the image of the small town for international tourists.

Member of the Sabie Chamber of Business and Tourism, Karim Uren says businesses are affected.

“Hundreds, if not thousands, of foreign tourists pass through Sabie. It is a tourists maker. Our local tourists come in December and we have events like the Sabie experience, cycle race where hundreds and hundreds of cyclists come. So, our guest houses won’t be able to accommodate them if they don’t have electricity.”

Residents of Sabie say they were not expecting the power cuts because they pay for their electricity. The residents say the power cuts, which last for about six hours daily also disrupt the water supply. Some say the power cuts are also impacting negatively on their work.

“We are not working normal hours, and that is a problem to us, because we are earning by hours. So, the money is going to be little. We have children at Universities, we have to pay and we have to buy this electricity as well. I feel very bad about this particular problem, because we don’t know why we have the power cuts because we buy electricity, we cannot live without electricity.”

The Sabie Chamber of Commerce and Tourism recently took the Thaba Chweu Local Municipality to court in a bid to force the municipality to settle its electricity bill.

Municipal Manager Thoka Kgwale says negotiations with Eskom are continuing.

“On Wednesday, we were in court with the chamber of commerce, both Sabie Graskop and Lydenburg Mashishing. The case was dismissed by court. Nevertheless, we have been doing our best, ever since we started encountering this disruption of provision of electricity. Our talks with Eskom have been ongoing. We have never stopped and we are still doing everything in our powers service the current account.”

The provincial government has since ordered the municipalities that owe Eskom to settle their debts.

However, the municipalities do not have the money to pay their debts.