As load-shedding persists and electricity costs escalate, it is easy to blame Eskom. Yet almost all formal businesses, though only half as numerous as households, get their electricity through municipalities.

In at least some major economic centres — notably Johannesburg, Ekurhuleni and some of the Vaal — both outages and costs have escalated over the past decade. Neither the regulator nor the government track municipal electricity for businesses, making it hard to hold them to account. Meanwhile, cities struggle with declining revenues as tariffs soar...

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