A view of the Orlando Towers in Soweto, Johannesburg. Picture: 123RF/Nicolas De Corte
A view of the Orlando Towers in Soweto, Johannesburg. Picture: 123RF/Nicolas De Corte

The ANC wants to ensure that citizens and government departments start paying for services, given the massive debt owed by and to SA’s local municipalities.

The party’s national executive committee (NEC) has decided it will “immediately” embark on a mass campaign to encourage communities to pay for services. 

The ANC’s highest decision-making body between conferences met over the weekend to deal mainly with the economy and the state of local government.  

The culture of non-payment has seen consumers owing billions of rand to municipalities. In turn, local authorities are also heavily indebted to various water boards and ailing power utility Eskom, which has become SA’s biggest credit risk.   

Soweto residents alone owe R18bn to Eskom, which provides electricity directly to residents there. This in turn affects Eskom’s own ballooning debt, which threatens the country’s financial sustainability.  

Finance minister Tito Mboweni, who is an NEC member, said on Wednesday that the government must show leadership by paying Eskom as well as what it owes to different municipalities. 

“There’s a famous township in Gauteng which owes Eskom 18bn. They must pay,” Mboweni said. 

While Mboweni clearly supported the user-pay principle, he did not venture into the terrain of e-tolls. The government is yet to make a final decision on the controversial tolling system.

ANC secretary-general Ace Magashule said municipalities that owed Eskom and the water boards must settle outstanding debts or make arrangements to do so, while the power utility and the water boards must refund municipalities where it has overcharged them.

He said national and provincial departments must also pay their debts to Eskom and the municipalities. 

“The relevant authorities in government will ensure that monies owing are settled in a manageable way over the coming period,” Magashule said. 

The focus on local government by the NEC, which has called for a review of how it selects candidates who stand for public office, was indicative of the party preparing for the 2021 election. 

The local government election will be a crucial test for the party to see whether it can continue reversing the decline it saw in 2016, which resulted in it losing majority support in critical metros such as Tshwane, Johannesburg, Nelson Mandela Bay and Ekurhuleni.

Magashule said the review will include reworking the ANC’s policy document, titled “Through the Eye of the Needle”, which serves as the party’s guide for electing leaders, as well as expediting the establishment of a permanent electoral commission in the party.

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