Date: 13 February 2017 By: Andries van Zyl
For now, residents of Makhado are safe from Eskom’s threats to completely cut off electricity supply to municipalities who fail to settle their electricity debt.
“Residents need not fear as we are not owing Eskom anything,” was the response received from municipal spokesperson Mr Louis Bobodi on Tuesday.
Earlier in January this year, Eskom threatened to cut the electricity supply completely to municipalities who are owing them billions of rands in outstanding debt. Their threat came after the High Court in Pretoria haad ruled that they could cut the electricity supply to defaulting municipalities while they tried to recover their debt. Among the culprits mentioned initially were municipalities in Mpumalanga, Northwest, Free State, Northern Cape and Eastern Cape. Since then, many of these municipalities had to dig deep into their pockets to pay back the money owed, or to make payment arrangements with Eskom to avoid being cut off.
“We can confirm that as of January 2017, we do not have any debt with them [Eskom],” said Bobodi when asked what the municipality’s outstanding account was with Eskom and if they were in arrears.
Although Makhado’s Eskom account is up to date, it does not mean that the municipality does not struggle to recover outstanding monies from consumers. “Non-payment by customers and tampering of meters and reconnections are some of the challenges that we are facing,” said Bobodi. He added, however, that they are addressing the issue. “We must ensure strict credit control to force residents to pay on default accounts,” said Bobodi.
Eskom’s threat to cut the electricity supply to defaulting municipalities came amidst an ever increasing demand for electricity, especially regarding development. During an interview with Makhado mayor Shonisani Sinyosi in December, following her first 100 days in office, Sinyosi indicated that the biggest obstacle they faced regarding future growth and development in the municipal area was the shortage of available electricity.
At present, the municipality’s main substation has a notified maximum demand (NMD) of 44 mega volt amp (MVA). To work out how much of this electricity is used, the highest 30-minute interval per month is measured. “The highest this year so far was 43,448MVA,” said Bobodi.
With almost all available electricity allocated to the Makhado Municipality already being used during peak times, the question now is how much more electricity is needed to ensure sustainable growth in the area. “Depending on the applications for development and the future load forecast, immediate additional needs are 7,830 MVA , an additional 15MVA one to three years from now and another 4,300MVA five to seven years from now – thus a total of plus minus 28MVA for the short to medium term. Long-term plans show at least a total NMD of 100MVA will be required for the Makhado main substation. This does not include the other intake points,” Bobodi said.
Realizing the challenge, the Makhado Municipality has not sat idly. “The municipality’s administration has engaged with ESKOM and the Department of Energy for assistance in funding to make available an additional 22MVA at the main substation. If approved, this will push the NMD up to 66MVA,” said Bobodi. Bobodi added that further plans include completely removing the entire Levubu load from the Makhado main substation by creating a new substation at Elim. “If this can materialise, then another 10MVA can be deloaded from the main substation for further developments,” Bobodi said.
Andries joined the Zoutpansberger and Limpopo Mirror in April 1993 as a darkroom assistant. Within a couple of months he moved over to the production side of the newspaper and eventually doubled as a reporter. In 1995 he left the newspaper group and travelled overseas for a couple of months. In 1996, Andries rejoined the Zoutpansberger as a reporter. In August 2002, he was appointed as News Editor of the Zoutpansberger, a position he holds until today.