South Africa’s Eskom owed millions, says public enterprises ministry

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 REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

Foreign governments owe South Africa’s Eskom millions of U.S. dollars in outstanding payments at a time when the country is grappling with a worsening power crisis, Minister of Public Enterprises Pravin Gordhan disclosed on Thursday.

Of the 632 million rand (about 43 million U.S. dollars) owed by foreign governments, Zimbabwe takes up the lion’s share, owing 322 million rand, the minister said in reply to a parliamentary question.

Mozambique comes second, owing 221 million rand, to be followed by Zambia which owes 89 million rand.

Gordhan cited economic and political challenges as well as financial constraints as reasons for the non-payment.

Staggering under a heavy debt amounting to more than 420 billion rand, Eskom often resort to load shedding across South Afric to avoid a total collapse of the national grid, with the most recent rolling blackouts taking place late last month.

Eskom warned on Thursday that the electricity system remains under severe pressure due to planned or unplanned breakdowns at coal-fired power generating stations.

This could result in load shedding at short notice, the utility said.

The government has forked out billions of rand to bail out the embattled utility, but with little effect.

Besides providing more than 95 percent of electricity consumed in South Africa, the state-run utility also supplies electricity to some other African countries.

In addition to the outstanding debts owed by foreign governments, the power utility is also owed close to 20 billion rand in outstanding debt from municipalities across South Africa, according to Gordhan.

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