President Cyril Ramaphosa’s office says it cannot step in to prevent power utility Eskom from cutting off the electricity of dozens of businesses located in failing municipalities. Eskom is poised to cut off electricity in at least five municipalities, putting thousands of jobs at stake and bringing basic services such as sewage reticulation to a halt. Several firms have resorted to the courts to stop the cut-offs, with five court applications in the works and another dispute in mediation. Eskom is owed R13.6bn by defaulting municipalities, an amount that increased by 30% over the past year. The power utility itself is in a battle for survival with a huge debt it is unable to service from its operating revenue and tariffs that are not cost-reflective. In one of the worst cases of municipal arrears debt, in Maluti-a-Phofung — which includes the Free State town of Harrismith — businesses have named Ramaphosa as a respondent in an application, appealing to the Free State division of th...

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