KZN MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Sipho Hlomuka has with great urgency embarked on efforts to avert electricity interruptions at Newcastle local municipality.

This follows the publishing of a notice of intent to interrupt electricity supply to Newcastle daily from 30 September at 6 am. This is due to the municipality’s overdue debt of about R200-million to the power utility Eskom.

Hlomuka has urged residents of Newcastle to pay for municipal services, including electricity, as their failure to do so puts a huge strain on the dwindling finances of municipalities. Business and consumer electricity debt is the main reason for the escalating costs.

“What we are dealing with here in Newcastle is a challenge that is facing many municipalities across the country. It is the failure by residents, including businesses, to keep up to date with their utility bills. Our department is committed to working with municipalities to find a solution to this and we urge all residents to prioritise paying for municipal services. We have seen many cases where households prioritise entertainment, DSTV and airtime instead of paying for utilities first and this behaviour has to change,” said Hlomuka.

MEC Hlomuka has also urged municipalities to implement stringent measures in order to recover the lost revenue, which includes fining or prosecuting those who are found to have illegal electricity connections. “The law has to take its course; it is absolutely untenable that the financial stability of our municipalities is at risk due to those who refuse to pay for services such as electricity” said Hlomuka.

“We are urging the residents and the business community of Newcastle to play their part. Those defaulting must urgently settle their bills as the implications of power interruptions would be a major setback for the economic prospects of Newcastle.  Power cuts would impact on jobs and investments. They would dissuade potential investors from settling where there is uncertainty over electricity. It is time for everyone to pull together and avert a power crisis in Newcastle,” said Hlomuka.

MEC Hlomuka has directed senior Cogta officials to urgently facilitate engagements with Eskom to find a lasting solution. The meeting will take place tomorrow, Monday 2 September 2019.