Pretoria - Eskom has refused to shoulder the blame for unpaid December salaries to workers at Renosterberg Local Municipality in the Northern Cape, owing to legal action taken by the power utility to attach the municipality’s bank account.
The state-owned entity had gone to court in a bid to recoup nearly R106 million owed to it by the municipality.
The Pretoria News reported last week that the municipality blamed Eskom for its failure to pay about 100 municipal workers, who were forced to have a bleak festive season.
According to mayor Andrew Samson, Eskom froze the municipal account, making it impossible for the municipality to pay its employees.
On Friday Eskom confirmed a debt of R105 140 041 owed to the utility by the municipality, but shot down claims that it was to blame for the unpaid workers.
The enterprise said it simply “obtained a court order against the municipality and executed the order”.
It also confirmed the version by the municipality that talks were under way between the two parties to come up with a mutual solution.
But Eskom wouldn’t give details about the ongoing talks.
“There has been communication between Eskom and the municipality but due to the sensitive nature of the matter, we are not able to disclose any details,” it said.
Acting municipal manager Kgabaganyo Matolong could not give a date when workers would be remunerated, saying, “the ball is in Eskom’s court”.
On behalf of the workers, the South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) expressed disappointment that problems at the municipality were “exacerbated when Eskom attached the municipality’s bank account due to non-payment”.
It said about 100 municipal workers were not paid after Eskom obtained “a writ of execution on the municipal account”.
“For a long while, the municipality has been failing to pay workers their salaries on time while third parties such as pension funds, medical aids and funeral policies have not been paid either,” the union said.
Samwu called on the Northern Cape Legislature to take over the running of the municipality, by dissolving the council through Section 139(1)(c) of the Constitution.
According to the union, the municipal management was riddled with instability, which saw the appointment of two municipal managers in a space of two months since the November local government elections.
One of the managers resigned from her position due to ill health, according to the mayor.
The municipality also didn’t have a chief financial officer, he added.