The business organisation Sakeliga (formerly known as AfriBusiness) has kept its promise to engage in legal action to prevent Eskom from interrupting electricity supply to paying end-users. The main objective of Sakeliga’s legal strategy is attempting to find a overarchingsolution to the national energy problem.
Sakeliga applied to be admitted as a friend of the court in the important case instituted by Resilient Properties and other institutions against Eskom and the eMalahleni Municipality. The organisation was admitted as amicus curiae to the proceedings and shortly thereafter made its submissions to the court. The eMalahleni Municipality currently owes Eskom around R1,6 billion, which is Eskom’s reasons for intending to switch off Witbank’s electricity supply. The applicants wish to acquire the court’s intervention to prevent Eskom from interrupting electricity supply to the local community.
Piet le Roux, CEO of Sakeliga, explains the organisation’s involvement in these proceedings: “Sakeliga cannot allow paying customers’ electricity supply to be arbitrarily cut because one organ of state does not pay the accounts of another. This will lead to an economic catastrophe in local communities as local businesses will have to incur major expenses to prevent these power interruptions. That is why Sakeliga has applied to join the matter: to assist the court in the development of appropriate national principles to reach an overall solution.”
According to Le Roux, Eskom’s decision to interrupt electricity supply to municipalities is both premature and irregular. “It is a convenient illusion for Eskom to pretend that municipalities are the customers and that they can therefore interrupt electricity to those municipalities who are in extreme arrears. These entities are all different legs of the state and municipalities therefore are collection agents than end-users. As a friend of the court, we want to point out the statutory provisions for how different organs of state should resolve their disputes through mediation and arbitration. Municipalities have to pay their bills to Eskom, but we argue that paying end-users cannot bear the brunt for issues that arise between organs of state.”
Sakeliga deplores Eskom’s efforts to bypass the relevant dispute resolution mechanisms at its disposal. The organisation also argues that Eskom not only avoided approaching a court for relief, but also failed to follow any alternative dispute resolution procedures. “This has culminated in electricity consumers having to seek relief from court, which entirely subverts the spirit and purpose of the legislative provisions.”