The Democratic Alliance (DA) welcomes reports that the lights will stay on in the Northern KZN town of Newcastle for the foreseeable future. This after the province’s High Court today granted an interim interdict to prevent power cuts.
The temporary reprieve comes as a result of the Municipality owing Eskom R200 million. While Newcastle claims that it can only repay a maximum of R30 million per month, Eskom is demanding at least R60 million monthly.
Newcastle is a prime example of what happens when a municipality is incapable of effectively managing its expenses. The DA regards today’s High Court interdict as merely a stay of execution, which must be seen as such, unless this municipality can get its act together quickly.
The situation in Newcastle is also not new. The Eskom debt has been accumulating since 2012, showing that successive ANC-led governments have allowed the problem to escalate.
During this time, the DA has made numerous calls to both the former CoGTA MEC and her successor, Sipho Hlomuka, to urgently intervene in this and other towns where electricity debt is ballooning. We have also urged the MEC and his Department to get municipalities to spend their monies wisely and pay what they owe to Eskom before the situation gets out of hand.
While it is not ideal that this should have become a legal matter, it is also clear that the municipality does not have the political will to act. Nor does it have the best interests of residents at heart. If it did, this situation would never have been allowed to escalate.
Today, it has taken the courts to ensure that citizens’ rights will be protected. This, however, does not stop the problem that the MEC and his Department continue to ignore.
The DA will write to the Chairperson of KZN’s CoGTA portfolio committee, Ricardo Mthembu, to call for MEC Hlomuka to appear at the next meeting to outline a plan which will address Eskom debt in across all KZN’s municipalities.