Court forbids Eskom to cut power

In a victory for paying electricity customers the High Court in Pretoria on Friday granted an urgent interim interdict against power cuts by Eskom.

The order prohibits Eskom from cutting electricity provision to the Kgetleng Rivier Local Municipality, pending a review application to be instituted by 29 June.

The application was brought by concerned residents of the local municipality, represented by Andreas Peens Attorneys and advocates H van Eeden SC, DH Wijnbeek and KT Mathopo. AfriBusiness supports the applicants financially, as part of its campaign to avert a looming economic crisis in local municipalities country-wide.

Piet le Roux, CEO of AfriBusiness expressed his congratulations: “We congratulate the paying residents of Kgetlengrivier Local Municipality and their legal team with the victory. AfriBusiness is studying the judgement for its implications for similar situations in other local municipalities and with a view to lend support to the applicants in their pending review application. This was an important battle, but much still needs to be done to ensure that paying electricity customers get what they pay for.

The application came in the wake of notice by Eskom to local residents that their power would be cut in light of the accounts of the local municipality with Eskom being in arrears. Eskom intended to interrupt power to the area irrespective of the fact that many residents were up to date with their electricity payments, or had even payed for electricity in advance.

Country-wide campaign

AfriBusiness is stepping in to avert economic crises in local municipalities countrywide facing looming power cuts by Eskom. It is the contention of AfriBusiness that the utility, notwithstanding municipalities being in arrears, is in effect unjustifiably threatening to withhold electricity from businesses and other end users on prepaid and with fully paid-up accounts.

AfriBusiness invites its members and the public to submit evidence of Eskom’s intention to cut power, including notices and short descriptions of the situation, on our website.

Towns and municipalities potentially affected include, among others, Koster and Swartruggens (Kgetlengrivier Local Municipality), Naboomspruit/Mookgophong (Modimolle Local Municipality), Barkly West (Dikgatlong Local Municipality), Vryburg (Dr Ruth Segomotsi Mompati District Municipality) and Secunda (Govan Mbeki Local Municipality).

Piet le Roux, CEO of AfriBusiness, says that Eskom’s actions appear administratively flawed, unjust and counterproductive. “Eskom is a monopoly, protected by government regulations preventing free competition that would provide businesses and other consumers with alternative sources of electricity. Moreover, people are forced to pay Eskom via delinquent local authorities that essentially act as Eskom’s agents to collect revenue, yet fail to transfer the money to Eskom. Now Eskom wants to cut electricity not only to consumers who are up to date with their accounts, but even to those who have purchased prepaid electricity.”

The harm to local economies will be extensive and will plunge such municipalities into a downward spiral. “And this not even considering the humanitarian consequences when hospitals, schools, sewerage works, traffic lights and other public benefit infrastructure lose power,” Le Roux concludes.