Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba on Thursday threatened to institute dispute resolution proceedings with the national energy regulator over power utility Eskom’s decision not to restore electricity to areas affected by frequent blackouts due to illegal connections to the grid.
On Wednesday, Eskom said it would not restore power to areas where supply was disrupted due to illegal connections and tampering with meters. It said electricity would only be restored to legitimate customers on condition that they allowed the utility’s staff to conduct audits and remove illicit connections.
Eskom has experienced frequent incidents of equipment failure in some areas, especially in Gauteng province, leading to overloading, which results in damage to transformers and mini-substations.
The troubled state company is owed at least R15 billion in unpaid bills by residents of Soweto township. Some areas in Johannesburg, including Soweto, Ivory Park, Orange Farm and Diepsloot, have gone without power for three months.
In a statement on Thursday, Mashaba said he had requested a meeting with Eskom officials within the next 48 hours after the utility allegedly instituted credit management procedures across entire communities in response to individual residents’ failure to pay their bills.
“While the city of Johannesburg would not normally seek to interfere in or instruct Eskom on how to conduct its affairs, I feel compelled to enter the fray and intervene on behalf of paying residents who face unfair punishment at the hands of Eskom due [to] the actions of a few residents,” Mashaba said.
“Should the allegations against Eskom prove to be true, it would amount to a blanket punishment [and] a violation of residents’ rights as well as a gross abuse of power.”
He said Eskom had a legal obligation to provide electricity to those residents who honoured their financial obligations and he found it disturbing that the company had taken a decision not to repair or maintain infrastructure in areas with high levels of non-payment.
“The City of Johannesburg cannot sit by idly and watch Eskom engage in such unethical and unlawful conduct. We have a duty to protect our law-abiding residents who are affected by this conduct,” he said.
“Should Eskom fail to heed my request, I will have no choice but to institute urgent dispute resolution proceedings with the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) between the city and Eskom.”
– African News Agency