After months of confrontation, organised business in Emfuleni and the local municipality are on the verge of brokering an historic agreement to cooperate closely on electricity rates, billing and payment issues facing specifically the business sector.
The proposed move follows a high-level crisis meeting last week between the Golden Triangle Chamber of Commerce (GTCoC) and top officials of the Emfuleni Local Municipality (ELM) in Vanderbijlpark, Vaalweekblad has established from reliable sources.
If approved by the ELM Mayoral Committee, the proposed agreement could unlock possibly hundreds of millions of Rand in unpaid business revenues, resolve long-standing billing disputes and prevent sudden power cuts by ELM to local business.
Attendees at the meeting were GTCoC CEO Klippies Kritzinger and spokesperson Jaco Verwey, as well as Municipal Manager Oupa Nkoane and ELM Chief Financial Officer Andile Dyakala.
Kritzinger and Verwey confirmed the meeting but did not comment further.
“Business is not the enemy and we will go the extra mile to assist ELM and all stakeholders to break down barriers, resolve problems and ultimately make Emfuleni an investment and job-creation destination,” Kritzinger told Vaalweekblad.
No comment was forthcoming from ELM, but in a later media statement Executive Mayor Jacob Khawe praised the GTCoC for its support against Eskom power cuts.
“The Executive Mayor expresses his deep gratitude and respect to the GTCoC and its affiliates….,” said Mayoral spokesperson Lebo Mofokeng in a media statement on Eskom issues.
Lack of sustainable revenue to ELM is seen as a major reason why the embattled local authority cannot pay bulk suppliers such as Eskom and Rand Water. Residents also owe ELM almost R5 billion.
Further steps could be structured to widen cooperation with ELM and specifically issues of mutual concern to both ELM and GTCoC directly concerning the business sector. This includes issues such as preferential electricity rates given by Eskom to more than 20 top Vaal businesses whilst leaving ELM to pay for infrastructure maintenance.
At the core of the proposed agreement are the following proposals and issues:
* Establishing a business-centric “Warroom” or Business Customer Centre at ELM offices in Vanderbijlpark to address business billing issues
* Preferential Eskom rates paid by the Top 20 firms in Emfuleni thus denying ELM legitimate revenue whilst forcing the authority to maintain infrastructure
* No sudden or unannounced power cuts to business will be implemented by ELM without prior consultation
* GTCoC emphasised an “open door” policy in dealing with ELM
* GTCoC requested investigations into allegations of nepotism in some ELM departments
* Broader issues of community mistrust of ELM and the culture of non-payment in Emfuleni.