The community of Harrismith is desperately seeking answers from the Maluti-a-Phofung municipality after being without electricity since Monday 5 September. Following days of confusion and mixed messages, repairs started on the main substation on Saturday. Just as residents had hoped for a resolution to the crisis, a substation burnt out completely on Monday night 12 September.
On Tuesday, it was confirmed that the substation requires a total upgrade costing R16 million. Businesses have now closed, unable to further fund the cost of fuel. The situation is worsened as the municipality is bankrupt and currently operating on an unfunded budget. Additionally, it owes R11 billion to creditors including Eskom. For many years the maintenance of critical infrastructure has been completely neglected, with only small repairs taking place.
The Gauteng High Court ordered the municipality to enter into an agreement with Eskom to take over the electricity function and revenue collection. The local council has not implemented the order stating it “would not survive without electricity revenue.” In October 2021, the Minister of Finance advised that Maluti-a-Phofung must be placed under Sec 139(7) National Intervention. It has been resisted by the Free State Executive Committee, which continues to try ‘help’ the municipality.
In light of the current crisis, the DA shall today be writing to the Minister of Finance and CoGTA, demanding that they enforce their recommendation of national intervention. The economy of Maluti-a-Phofung is in crisis, unemployment and hunger are increasing, and residents are not receiving basic services. This situation cannot be allowed to continue, and urgent action must be taken.