SECUNDA – Eskom is still adament to throttle the electricity supply to the Govan Mbeki Municipality from Monday, 21 May.
Ms Juanita Vögel, spokesman for Eskom, said on Monday that at time of going to press, the municipality has since Eskom’s announcement to restrict the power supply, not made any alternative arrangements.
This comes in the wake of Rand Water’s announcement last week to restrict water pressure to the area because the municipality breached its repayment agreement. The water pressure was lowered by 20 per cent in February, but the water pressure has dropped with 40 per cent since last week. This resulted in taps running dry in households in higher level areas.
DA councillor Ms Marietjie Fourie warned residents in February that they were likely to be faced with low water pressure in the coming months because Govan Mbeki Municipality has repeatedly failed to pay Rand Water.
She said in a press statement on 21 February that the municipality at that time owed Rand Water R131.2 million which included arrears of R105 million and a current account of R25.8 million, plus interest.
“At that time the municipality was supposed to pay the R25,8 million to Rand Water by the end of February and the total arrears amount was supposed to have been paid by the end of February.
Govan Mbeki Municipality has been very quiet on this matter, as well as the looming Eskom crisis. The details of the repayment agreement with Eskom that was reached on 6 April, was never revealed. Residents are still in the dark as to the extent of the debt.
They do however know that the contemplated interruptions will affect Secunda, Bethal, eMzinoni and eMbalenhle.
In the first week from 21 to 27 May, the electricity will be off from 6am to 8 am and again from 5pm to 7.30pm from Monday to Friday and on weekends from 8.30am to 11am and again from 3pm to 5.30pm.
The interruptions will last longer in the second week and the third week there will be no power supply from 6am to 8pm.
If Govan Mbeki Municipality does not come up with a payment, Eskom will continue with the cut off.
Mr Bheki Kubheka, spokesman for Govan Mbeki Municipality, said on Monday that the municipality is planning to issue a statement, but could not confirm when this will happen. “I am waiting for my seniors,” explained Mr Kubheka.
Mr Michael Holentein from Outa’s Local Government Initiative said the organisation is aware of the unacceptable situation in the Govan Mbeki Municipal area.
“We have sent letters to the municipal manager and the provincial treasury asking for a finance recovery plan and the municipality’s repayment plan. I was told this morning (Monday) that the official will first need permission from his authories before he can release that information to me.”
Mr Holenstein was at three respective integrated development plan meetings in the area during which residents asked the local municipal representatives whether there are plans in place to pay Eskom and Rand Water.
“We were given the assurance that there are plans in place, but no details were offered. It is clear that there are nothing in place,” said Mr Holenstein.
He was in the process of drafting more letters to the provincial and national governments.
Ms Marietjie Fourie and Mr Hein Badenhorst, DA councillors on the finance portfolio committee, have also been asking for an urgent meeting with the finance department, but have not received any feedback yet.
Ms Aranda Nel-Buitendag from Freedom Front Plus said the councillors are also being held in the dark. “We are not informed of anything and no one is giving any feedback on what the situation with Eskom and Rand Water is. This is completely unacceptable.”
Residents have meanwhile been fuming in their comments on social media.
Ms Neli Hayes said withholding water is an infringement of basic human rights. “You pay your water. Pay your refuse and sewage. Then you get hit by no water. So what the hell are we paying for? We are in a situation where we are living in a higher area and there is no possibility of water being pumped up towards our house. Throttling is serving low lying houses but not houses that are lying higher.”
Ms Cindy Pearly Msane People said GMM should be removed. “This has gone too far.”
Mr Danny Mkwanazi said: “GMM should be under administration with a decision of Section 139 of the constitution. If all goes well, the area should be provincial…”