Sakeliga, in collaboration with Agri North-West, TLU SA and affected businesses, launched a court application against Eskom today with the view of ending targeted load reduction on numerous feeder lines across the country. For more than a year now, Eskom has regularly and for hours on end been terminating the power supply of direct users on certain feeder lines in an apparent attempt to curb illegal usage and to collect debts. In the process, paying end users – often businesses and farms – are also targeted. Load reduction is implemented above and beyond national load shedding and causes significant disruption to production processes and damage to equipment.
Sakeliga sent a letter to Eskom on 1 August and demanded an undertaking that illegal load reduction on identified feeder lines will be ceased. Eskom did not respond to the letter of demand and Sakeliga instructed our legal team to approach the High Court to have Eskom’s load reduction policy and its implementation declared illegal and unconstitutional and set aside. Agri North-West, TLU SA and an affected business are co-applicants in the matter filed today.
Although the Electricity Regulation Act provides for a form of load reduction, this may never involve a complete cessation of electricity supply but only an appropriate reduction in load size. Load reduction may also not be used as a debt collection mechanism. Correspondence accessed by Sakeliga indicates that Eskom does implement load reduction on targeted feeder lines in an attempt to collect debts and curb illegal usage. In the process, several paying end-users’ electricity supply is often terminated for hours on end.
Sakeliga has successfully litigated against Eskom in the past to protect paying end-users from disorder that prevails at and among organs of state. In the case of load reduction, it appears that Eskom does not have the ability or willingness to effectively address problems surrounding illegal usage and infrastructure upgrading. Load reduction is then instead implemented to target both illegal and legal direct end users. This conduct is irrational and unfair.
It is unacceptable that paying end-users’ businesses and livelihoods must bear the brunt of negligence and deterioration at Eskom. Despite the decay already brought about and threat it poses to the economy and businesses, the government chooses in large part to maintain a statutory monopoly over electricity supply in Eskom. On top of the instability and increased costs already occasioned by load shedding, those on targeted supply lines who dutifully settle their electricity bills every month are now further punished because Eskom does not maintain their infrastructure and fails to remove illegal connections on supply lines.
Sakeliga’s latest court case against Eskom to stop load reduction aims to bring interim relief to many businesses and households. Businesses and the public in South Africa are in the grips of a man-made electricity crisis caused by the obstruction of private electricity supply, perpetrated by the state at legislative and executive level. The larger legal battle that Sakeliga is therefore investigating is to remove obstructions to alternative electricity in South Africa. We invite business people and others who want to make concrete efforts to generate, distribute, sell or purchase alternative electricity and have specific needs for legal assistance on a principled basis, to approach us. Read more about this initiative here.