South Africa: Government Needs to Act On Eskom and Soweto Residents' Debt Duel

Eskom's national control centre (file photo).

Eskom says it is losing at least R2.5bn in revenue annually due to illegal power connections in Gauteng. Of that, it is haemorrhaging R3m a day in Soweto alone. But illegal connections make up only half of Eskom's debt problem in the area.

Last year, Eskom officials said that Soweto residents were R18-billion in electricity payment arrears, which included cumulative interest. The former township's debt load has been a major thorn in the side of the power utility. About 200,000 Soweto residents are direct clients of Eskom, which means that the City of Johannesburg does not collect electricity tariffs from these residents - Eskom does.

Eskom's senior manager for customer services in Gauteng, Daphne Mokwena, recently told the media that Soweto residents owed Eskom R7.8-billion for electricity, which excluded the R5-billion interest that had accumulated.

In an effort to get more residents to pay their bills, Eskom is installing prepaid meters in households. Mokwena said that nearly 66,000 of these meters had been installed.

"This year we still need to convert about 17,500 meters to prepaid. The remaining installations of about 52,000 will be done in the next two years," she said.

Eskom spokesperson Sikonathi Mantshantsha told Business Maverick that...

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