Eskom Cuts Power to 116,300 as S. Africa Districts Don't Pay

  • Five municipalities in Northern Cape province cut off Friday
  • Power utility is owed 32.3 billion rand by its customers

South Africa’s state-owned power utility cut supply to five districts with about 116,300 residents after the municipalities failed to pay the company for electricity.

Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd. disconnected supply at 7 a.m. in the Northern Cape province municipalities of Dikgatlong, Magareng, Ubuntu, Thembelihle and Renosterberg, it said on its Twitter account Friday. The cuts will continue until 10 a.m. and resume from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., the Johannesburg-based company said.

The move follows “the municipalities defaulting on existing payment terms and payment arrangements,” Eskom said.

The utility needs about 237 billion rand ($14.7 billion) of funding in the five years to 2019 and has secured 84 percent of the 46 billion rand needed for the fiscal year that ends in March, it said in November. Eskom is owed about 32.3 billion rand by customers, including large industrial users and municipalities. Soweto, a township near Johannesburg, owes 9.8 billion rand, 95 percent of which is debt that’s more than 60 days overdue.

Political parties including the ruling African National Congress and the opposition Economic Freedom Fighters are getting ready for local government elections this year, and today’s action is unlikely to have been supported by the government, said Gary van Staden, a political analyst at NKC Independent Economists.

“I am not sure this is the way to go,” he said by phone. “The Northern Cape is not one of those places where the ANC has been secure, so this potentially a game-changing move by Eskom. Mpumalanga is also the same -- it was strongly ANC but now we see it bordering very strongly EFF. These are two regions where the ANC as the ruling party cannot afford to alienate voters and this will alienate voters.”

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