Residents of Maluti-a-Phofung are without electricity.
- The municipality of Maluti-a-Phofung in the Free State is drowning in financial problems.
- Communities have been without electricity for days and the quality of other services is deteriorating.
- The council is consistently ranked among South Africa’s worst run councils.
The Free State municipality of Maluti-a-Phofung is on the verge of complete collapse, without money or electricity.
Now energy company Eskom wants to move in and remove the electricity distribution, including revenue functions, from the municipality.
The move has irked the SA Local Government Association (Salga), which believes the plan will be detrimental to the council.
In a statement, Salga said the proposed active partnership agreement between Eskom and the municipality was intended to assist the municipality with operational challenges to secure a revenue stream and enable payment of the bulk electricity bill.
The intention is to take over the electricity distribution function, including all revenue related to the functions, from the municipality, Salga said.
But it added: “Salga believes that the distribution agency agreement is only fueled by the needs of one party and is not sustainable for all parties entering into the agreement, ignoring the fundamental principles that electricity is a major source of funding for the local government.”
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Tebogo Hlakutse, chair of the Salga Energy and Public Works Working Group, said: “We appreciate the challenges some municipalities face in fulfilling their executive and service functions in electricity.
“Salga supports that a sustainable and balanced active partnership agreement with Eskom or any other entity with the capacity to provide the electricity distribution services is in place to provide sustainable and reliable electricity services to the communities.”
The municipality consists of towns such as Kestell, Harrismith and QwaQwa.
Salga believes that Eskom’s current distribution agreement does not equally and fairly meet the needs of Eskom and the municipality.
“Of particular importance is the financial sustainability of the municipality once Eskom takes over the electricity distribution function, including all revenues associated with the function. The distribution agreement also requires the Maluti-a-Phofung municipality to pay the entire debt of nearly R6 billion, as well as additional service costs. , said Hlakutsa.
“Furthermore, if Eskom were to be appointed to be the service provider on behalf of the municipality, it must do so using the process set out in the Municipal System Act, which Eskom as a service provider or agency is expected to comply with . [with] the ordinances of the municipality where it concerns credit control, surcharges and other matters related to electricity services,” he said.
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The DA has since warned that the municipality’s financial woes have worsened.
It struggles to pay salaries and communities are without electricity for days.
DA councilor Alison Oates said the council budget was passed on the basis of a pledge that all political parties would support a financial recovery plan.
“Unfortunately, this has not happened. The council’s inability to manage its finances has resulted in a breakdown in community services, deteriorating the area’s infrastructure. As the cost of living has affected millions across the country “It’s ridiculous that mismanagement has led to hardship in the poorest areas of this already struggling country,” said Oates.
Attempts to contact the mayor and officials were unsuccessful.