Cape Town – Eskom will waive Soweto residents’ debt repayments as an incentive to convert to prepaid meters, it was revealed in a written reply in Parliament by the Department of Public Enterprises (DPE) on Wednesday.
The DPE was responding to a question by Democratic Alliance MP Natasha Mazzone, who asked whether “there are any plans to waive debts owed by residents of Soweto to Eskom for services rendered”.
The DPE said Eskom “has an incentive programme in place where customers converted to prepaid meters are monitored over a period of three years to establish if the behaviour of buying electricity becomes entrenched”.
“Writing off the historical debt is considered if good behaviour is sustained during the monitoring period. Each customer is dealt with on an individual basis,” it said.
Eskom project manager Daphney Mokwena told Fin24's sister publication City Press this month that the culture of non-payment in Soweto has been a huge challenge for Eskom.
She said 80% of residents do not even make provision for electricity in their monthly budgets. This culture poses a challenge, along with illegal electricity connections and ghost vendors who allegedly sell electricity vouchers on behalf of either municipalities or the utility itself. “This leads to an unstable power connection,” she said.
She said at least 39% of Soweto has already installed the new smart meters and it was expected that, over the next three to five years, the whole of Soweto would be connected.
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In another reply, the DPE said there are no agreements in place for the City of Johannesburg to take over Eskom's supply of electricity to Soweto.
However, the DPE said “Eskom works very closely with the municipality to address the issue of non-payment and the rolling out of the prepaid meters” in Soweto.
“Engagements with the community are conducted with the support of the leadership of the municipality and alignment on issues such as dealing with the poor and debt issues are continuously discussed and agreed upon.”
The DPE said 180 000 customers receive electricity from Eskom in Soweto. “However, this translates into more residents which Eskom is not in a position to quantify as more people reside in a given home.
“Of the 180 000 customers, our current payment levels are at 48% average for the current financial year to date, compared to an average of 40% in the previous financial year.
“Eskom has replaced 40 000 old meters, of which 18 000 customers are on prepaid already and buying electricity and the balance is being converted to prepaid daily.
“The programme of installing the meters is continuing and plans are to convert all customers to prepaid within five years.”