Deputy Speaker, even when there isn't load shedding, many of our citizens face dark, cold nights without hot water or cooked food. It's not because they haven't paid their bills or because there are power outages. It's because their local municipality has racked up debt to Eskom that they are unable to service.
The worst offender is Maluti-a-Phofung Local Municipality, which owes in excess of R2,8 billion to Eskom. The municipality is unlikely to ever be able to settle its bill, as the interest far exceeds the revenue it generates each month. Others, like Emalahleni, Matjhabeng and Thaba Chweu Local Municipalities, are also in dire straits and owe hundreds of millions of rand.
At the end of March 2014, total municipal debt to Eskom was R2,6 billion. By the end of March 2017, it had increased to R13,6 billion, and by September 2018, it had reached a staggering R17 billion. Soweto debt, which is separate from municipal debt, as it is a direct Eskom supply area, also rose to R17 billion during the same period. Combined, this debt is now increasing at a billion rand a month.
This is not something that has crept up on us. The DA has been warning of this financial crisis since 2014. At that time, Minister Gordhan assured us that an interministerial task team would deal with it. This is the same task team that the President and the Finance Minister announced over the past few days, as if it were
something new. Well, here we are, five years later, and the situation is far, far worse. It is now a crisis - and solutions from that interministerial task team seem to be missing in action.
Minister Radebe's announcement at the Africa Energy Indaba that municipalities need to become more self- sufficient with regard to the production of electricity is to be welcomed. In fact, it is a key platform of our Private Member's Bill on cheaper electricity, which the hon Mazzone tabled earlier this year.
The key issue, however, which Minister Radebe has failed to address, is the ability of municipalities to manage this process. Most South African municipalities don't have the capacity to install, maintain and accurately read their customer's electricity meters, let alone ensure the accurate billing of consumption. In our proposals, municipalities must have the financial and technical capacity before they are permitted to generate or manage their own electricity supply.
A huge part of Eskom's troubles arise from the money they are owed. So, how can we fix it? The first thing that needs to happen is that there must be an assessment of which municipalities are in a position to, firstly, pay Eskom what they owe, and secondly, manage, finance, and control their own electricity supply.
Then, we need to clean up municipal financial management and, more specifically, municipal billing. We can do this by deploying the right experts - auditors, accountants, and managers with integrity - to help municipalities get their systems sorted out and get accurate bills sent to customers. We need to ensure that they collect all the revenue that they are entitled to and that their budgets are fully funded and cost-effective.
We need to make sure that they have control of all the electricity supply in the areas of their jurisdiction. So, the City of Johannesburg, for example, would take over areas like Soweto and Sandton, both of which are directly supplied and billed by Eskom. Not only will this give the municipality credit control over those areas, but it will also increase revenue to the municipality -
because municipalities mark up the electricity they purchase.
Lastly, we need to address the cost of electricity. Twenty-five years ago, this country prided itself on having the cheapest electricity in the world. Now, we are pushing to become the most expensive. It is unconscionable that Eskom has increased electricity tariffs by 356% over the past 10 years. It is reprehensible that we pay significantly more for electricity produced by Medupi and Khusile than we would for solar- or wind-generated electricity purchased during the Round 4 independent power producers, IPP, bidding.
By now, it should be obvious: government is failing to provide basic services for its residents. This electricity crisis can be laid firmly at the feet of a corrupt and incompetent ANC. The various Ministers of the Departments of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs and of Public Enterprises, and our President, Cyril Ramaphosa, from the time when he was Deputy President until now, have failed dismally to address the challenges in Eskom and our municipalities.
Where the DA governs, we are miles ahead in providing energy security for our citizens. More than eight out of 10 municipalities in the Western Cape already have laws in place to allow for independent electricity generation, and many of them are ready to sell electricity back to the grid.
Where we govern, we govern better. So, on 8 May, vote to keep the lights on. Take back the power! Vote DA! [Applause.]