While struggling Eskom is being rescued by the government’s lifebuoys and subjected to continual load shedding by South African consumers, several neighboring countries owe Eskom more than R600 million.
Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan revealed this figure in a parliamentary response issued by parliament on Thursday.
Among other things, Denis Joseph, a DA MP, wanted to know from him which countries and foreign companies provided electricity to Eskom and whether any of those countries or companies had any debt owed to Eskom.
According to Gordhan’s reply, Eskom also supplied electricity to ten international governments and companies on September 19 this year.
He said three neighboring countries’ electricity suppliers owed Eskom a combined total of R632 million. The Zimbabwean power authority’s (Zesa) outstanding debt is the most, at R322 million.
Gordhan says this is because Zimbabwe is also experiencing economic problems due to its political problems. He says Zesa is currently repaying the debt under a repayment agreement.
Furthermore, Mozambique’s electricity supplier, Electricidade de Mozambique, owes Eskom R221 million, which he is also unable to pay due to “financial constraints”. Here too, a refund agreement applies.
Then Eskom is also owed R89 million by Zambian electricity supplier, Zesco. “Economic problems” in Zambia also prevent the country from paying its Eskom debt, Gordhan says. A reimbursement agreement is still underway with Zesco.
According to Gordhan, there is no dispute with these countries that the money is owed to Eskom.
Gordhan made it clear that this joint outstanding debt from neighboring countries could only “minimally” help with Eskom’s cash flow problems.
However, he said, Eskom will ensure that future contracts with international clients are drawn up in such a way as to prevent the accumulation of debt.
DA chief whip Natasha Mazzone says in response to this, “it is inconceivable that Eskom is willing to hold hostages hostage while providing electricity to other countries that do not even pay for it.”
A half-billion rand is an astonishing amount of money and can help stabilize Eskom’s financial woes in the long term.
“With looming looming omnipresence, Eskom must first fulfill its obligations at home before it can even think of lubricating itself so thinly by providing electricity to other countries.”
Mazzone says that although Gordhan believes the outstanding debt of neighboring countries has a minimal impact on Eskom’s cash flow, “the reality is that every cent counts if Eskom itself has a mountain of debt in excess of R420 billion”.
“A half-billion rand is an astonishing amount of money and can help stabilize Eskom’s financial woes in the long term.”
According to her, the DA will write to Gordhan to disclose the repayment agreements Eskom has with the abovementioned countries.
She says in addition to the debt, local municipalities owe Eskom nearly R20bn.
She believes it is clear that Eskom is unable to collect this local and international debt. And if Eskom doesn’t get that money, South African taxpayers will have to continue to give Eskom lifebuoys.