Mayor, Dr Nthuthuko Mahlaba, publicly admitted he too panicked when he saw the notice issued by Eskom of its intention to carry out power interruptions, due to the municipality owing more than R213million. Following an urgent meeting between the municipality, Eskom, Cogta and KZN Treasury, Dr Mahlaba promised Newcastle will never experience power interruptions…

The Newcastle Advertiser, however, has heard from officials that Eskom is ‘preparing to play hardball’, especially since the municipality is yet to pay its August bill, let alone make a payment towards settling its existing debt. Members of the Newcastle Business Forum fear such action will cripple the town’s economy, forcing businesses, which are already under pressure from the recent dramatic rates and tariff increases, to close its doors. Reliable sources confided that Newcastle’s debt constitutes half of the amount owed to Eskom by all KwaZulu-Natal municipalities combined.

Cogta spokesperson, Senzelwe Mzila, and spokesperson for KZN Treasury, Musa Cebisa, are unable to comment with regards to the progress of the negotiations with Eskom until next week, and no response was forthcoming from the office of the municipal manager at Newcastle Municipality.

Addressing residents last Sunday, Dr Mahlaba, said KZN Treasury is overseeing the formulation of a new payment plan, which will be presented to Eskom. The revised payment plan, according to Dr Mahlaba, allows for the municipality to pay off its historical debt over a longer period. Furthermore, Newcastle Municipality has requested for Eskom extend the cut-off date for the payment of each month’s current account to the 15th, instead of the 2nd. By that time, residents would have paid their municipal bills making funds available to pay Eskom. The municipality will also be reducing the amount of energy it purchases from Eskom, thereby saving R4million a year.

While Eskom is yet to provide feedback as to whether it accepts the municipality’s proposal or not, business owners and residents are urged to use the submission form available on the Newcastle Advertiser website to avert a possible power disruption. Our legal adviser, Helene Eloff, has worked hard to take all the guesswork out of how to compile a submission, making the process much easier for our community. Once you click on submit, your submission will automatically be emailed to Eskom.

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