MLM whittling down Eskom bill, no reprieve from NMD

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GK CRONJE

21 September 2021

"On 16 August 2021, the municipality received a letter of appreciation and congratulation from the Mpumalanga Provincial Government: Head of Cooperative Governance And Traditional Affairs for its good performance in respect of the Eskom debt."

Residents of Ermelo and the surroundings are, after years, still up in arms due to the constant struggles with electrical outages and fluctuating electrical supply from Msukaligwa Local Municipality (MLM). The myriad of exposed innards from coverless electrical kiosks, as well as unlocked substations adds to the rolling power outages. The thinly-spread municipal teams scramble to attend all issues reported by residents by means of limited resources, as stated by MLM. Complaints are also rife with regards to the call centre, which had been recently revamped and apparently operating at optimal capacity, yet phones are left unanswered, and complainants receive unsatisfactory feedback from the operators. Most frustratingly, many residents are left without electricity for days on end, and the sporadic outages add to the fury. Many residents have vented their frustration with the fact that MLM issues load reduction schedules on a weekly basis, yet rarely keep to the stated times on the timetable. Wards are often switched on and off at leisure, with no regard to the schedule. More often than not, load reduction is implemented earlier than scheduled by MLM itself, and electricity is subsequently to restored at the times stated. Call centre operators rarely provide accurate feedback in this regard, and revert to the standard response of “a cable fault” to appease public wrath.

John Vorster Park struggles with fluctuating electricity supply on a daily basis, and both Netherland Park and De Bruin Park’s residents suffer extensively, shrouded in darkness. Fuming complaints on social media lamented the fact that the constant fluctuation of electricity had damaged electrical components, including DB boards, televisions, fridges and deep freezes. Residents are irked by the fact that MLM washes their hands of the damages suffered due to the outages. Residents in Cassim Park are also left with hands in the hair, as wards were left without electricity for hours, and even days, as technical teams struggle to keep up with reports and complaints. Residents in Wesselton and Sun City also lamented the fact that outages have been rolling and ongoing over the course of several days, much to the frustration of irrate complainants. It is known that Eskom has, out of necessity, reduced the Notified Maximum Demand (NMD) due to poor service of the Eskom account from MLM. MLM has, however, managed to whittle down the debt owed to Eskom, slowly but surely. While it is admirable to a certain degree, the issue of the reduced NMD still remains. While the MBCF and AfriForum champions for the reinstatement of adequate NMD, Eskom is having none of it, being once bitten, twice shy.

Enquiries directed at MLM regarding the Eskom debt and the NMD, Mandla Zwane, municipal spokesman, shed light on the current situation. “As at 2 July 2020, the municipality was lawfully indebted to Eskom an amount R180 634 882.73. The municipality and Eskom entered into repayment plan agreement, which was signed on 2 July 2020. As of 17 September 2021, the balance is R135 000 000. The current account, as of August 2021, is R44 734 318.45. On 16 August 2021, the municipality received a letter of appreciation and congratulation from the Mpumalanga Provincial Government: Head of Cooperative Governance And Traditional Affairs for its good performance in respect of the Eskom debt. On 7 September 2020, the municipality applied/request for the Notified Maximum Demand (NMD) to be increased overa period of 10 years, from 14MVA to 30MVA, and 27MVA to 30MVA on the Ermelo 88Kv and 11Kv MD29 respectively. To date, Eskom has not responded on the above application. Also, on 7 September 2020, the municipality applied for the NMD to be increased over period of 10 years from 1.1 MVA to 7MVA on the Breyten – KwaZanele 11Kv MD29. Eskom has responded to the latter with a quotation to the municipality of R43 million.”