Court victory for the business owners of Musina and business group Sakeliga against Eskom and municipality

Two years after the first legal steps to prevent Eskom from interrupting electricity in Musina, a cost order was obtained in favour of Sakeliga in the Gauteng High Court last week. The litigation stems from efforts by Eskom ion 2018 and 2019 to cut off electricity to all users in Musina, including paying businessowners, following a failure by the local municipality to pay the fees over to Eskom.

This legal action from 2018 and 2019 was the first successful intervention by Sakeliga to prevent Eskom from withholding electricity from paying business owners and other users. Legal arguments developed there have since paved the way for further successes, the most important of which is the ruling in December 2020 in the Supreme Court of Appeal, in Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd vs Resilient Properties. Thanks to this ruling, lights are currently burning in towns across the country, as it prevents Eskom from cutting off the electricity to local communities as a whole, including paying customers, due to municipal default. Eskom has meanwhile appealed to the Constitutional Court against this order, where Sakeliga will re-join to protect paying business owners and other users.

Piet le Roux, CEO of Sakeliga, says Sakeliga will use the money from the cost order “to advance our legal strategy to ensure successful local business communities. Reliable electricity is a requirement for this. We cannot allow electricity to paying users to be interrupted – that they are being held hostage economically – just because one state organ does not pay its bills to another state organ.”

Le Roux says Sakeliga wants to change the structure of electricity supply in the country: “In addition to our further role in the Resilient case, our legal team is currently also working on further litigation. It is not enough to simply prevent Eskom from switching off electricity – we must produce a sustainable solution. The next step is to ensure that paying users’ money is paid over to Eskom and does not disappear into the state’s coffers of failed municipalities and corrupt officials. Finally, consumers must be able to buy electricity directly from any supplier – and not just Eskom. We hope to make further announcements soon.”

The litigation in Musina stemmed from notices by Eskom in 2018 that electricity in Musina would be interrupted due to the Musina Local Municipality’s failure to pay paying users’ fees to Eskom. In collaboration with local businesspeople, Sakeliga brought an application to the court to have this decision reviewed and declared invalid.