Regulation needed to regulate electricity cuts amid Covid-19 pandemic

KIMBERLEY – The DA in the Northern Cape is pushing for regulation to regulate power cuts during the Covid 19 pandemic.

Harold McGluwa, MPL DA Northern Cape Provincial Chairperson & Chief Whip of the Provincial Caucus says they are calling on COGHSTA MEC, Bentley Vass, to urgently ensure that municipalities wanting to impose electricity cuts are guided by fair and merciful regulations in order to prevent further harm to individual households and local businesses.

In Upington’s Dawid Kruiper municipality, a blanket approach is being used to switch off and block the electricity of all payment defaulters, he says. “This is regardless of the individual merits of each case. This is also in spite of the fact that, over the past month of lockdown, a number of people have not received any income.”

“Some of the new defaulters previously had clean records and never failed to pay their municipal accounts before the havoc wreaked by the spread of Covid-19. A local guesthouse owner, who received an account of R9 000, cannot pay because the guest house is closed. Except for the flicker of his alarm system, there is no sign of life at the closed premises. There are and have been no clients for the past 35 days and he has received no income, due to the regulations. Like so many other businesses, there is nothing that the guest house owner can do. For more and more people, like the owner of the guest house, the situation is becoming increasingly dire,” McGluwa says.

He says: “In Dakota Way, a much poorer area, more and more residents don’t have money for food but yet the municipality has to be paid upfront or their power will be cut. With cold and wet winter blowing in, this is an increased threat to the wellbeing of residents who are already battling the doubly devastating impact of the ensuing health and economic crises. It is ruthless for the Dawid Kruiper municipality to cut power without even entering into discussions with residents or without being flexible in these trying times.”

McGluwa says: “While the DA accepts that accounts need to be paid for municipalities to remain operating as going concerns, the current extraordinary circumstances call for extraordinary measures, not just from national and provincial governments, but from local governments too.”

“In the Western Cape, we have seen caring DA-run municipalities offering rate cuts and rebates based on income losses incurred, and also entering into payment agreements, based on the unique circumstances of each individual,” he says.

DA Caucus leader of Dawid Kruiper municipality, Henk Opperman, has submitted a letter to council to review the process of electricity cuts.  McGluwa says: “I will also write to MEC Bentley Vass, asking him to urgently issue a directive to all local government institutions to adopt a caring and fair approach going forward. This is not the time for business as usual.”

“Municipalities in the Northern Cape need to adapt and, within clear guidelines, show humanity. Never before have we found ourselves in such a situation. As individuals and as government, we all need to help expand the safety net to those who desperately need relief, in its many different forms,” he says.

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