As of June 9, 2023, South Africa’s power utility, Eskom, has made it public that Tshwane, the nation’s capital city, owes them a staggering R1.9 billion in unpaid electricity bills.
The Power Dilemma
Eskom noted with concern that Tshwane’s payments for March 2023 fell short by R179 million, and payments for the succeeding months – April and May – remain outstanding.
“The increasing debt of the City of Tshwane is a grave concern for Eskom as it reaches an alarming R1.9 billion,” Eskom declared.
Detailing the city’s due payments, Eskom stated, “The payment for March, which was expected by April 19, 2023, fell short by R179 million. April’s R776 million bill, due on May 18, 2023, has not been met. Furthermore, we have issued an invoice of R904 million for May, payable by June 17, 2023.”
Strained Relations and Legal Threats
Eskom warned that its financial constraints are strained to the limit, making it impossible to continue supplying Tshwane with bulk electricity without appropriate compensation. The power utility has voiced its concerns and sought to resolve the issue through multiple engagements with the city.
Eskom’s Senior Manager for Customer Services in Gauteng, Mpumelelo Mnyani, has revealed that Eskom is currently contemplating all possible legal recourses to claim the outstanding debt.
Mnyani announced, “Given our cash flow challenges, we are considering all potential methods for recovering this debt, including seeking legal relief.”
A Recurring Issue
This isn’t the first time Tshwane has been in the limelight for its unpaid electricity bills. Eskom previously threatened to cut off the city’s power supply in August 2022 over an outstanding electricity bill of R1.6 billion.
One of the possible courses of action proposed by Eskom to secure the overdue payment was disconnecting Tshwane’s power. At that point, Tshwane had only paid a mere R68 million, hardly making a dent in the massive debt.
In June 2022, Tshwane was called out by Eskom for an outstanding balance of R878 million. Despite this, the city had only made two payments of R10 million and R20 million.
The City of Tshwane responded to Eskom’s public statements, stating they were aware of the metro’s financial struggles and were actively negotiating a resolution.
As this financial saga unfolds, the question remains: What will it take to balance the books, keep the lights on in the capital, and safeguard South Africa’s electricity supply? Only time will tell.