The business organisation, Sakeliga (formerly known as AfriSake), today undertook legal action to prevent Eskom from interrupting electricity supply to paying end-users in an attempt to find a national solution to the problem.
With the intended legal action Sakeliga applies to be admitted as a friend of the court in the important case brought forward by Resilient Properties and other institutions against Eskom and the Emalahleni Municipality. Currently the Emalahleni Municipality reportedly owes Eskom around R1.6 billion in light of which Eskom intends to withhold the town’s power. However, in this dispute the applicants wish to acquire the court’s intervention to prevent Eskom from interrupting electricity supply to the local community.
Piet le Roux, chief executive officer of Sakeliga, explains their intervention in these proceedings: “Sakeliga cannot allow the electricity supply of paying consumers to be arbitrarily cut because one organ of state does not pay the accounts of another. We are witnessing an economic catastrophe unfolding in local communities and in addition local businesses will have to incur major expenses to stop these power interruptions. This is the reason why Sakeliga has applied to join the matter, so as to assist the court in the development of appropriate national principles, in the interest of reaching an overall solution.”
Le Roux continues: “Eskom’s decision to interrupt electricity supply to this and other municipalities is both premature and irregular. It is a convenient illusion for Eskom to pretend that municipalities are the customers and is therefore entitled to interrupt electricity to those municipalities who are in extreme arrears. As a matter of fact, these entities are all different organs of the state. Municipalities, in reality, are more like collection agents than they are end-users. As a friend of the court, we want to point out the statutory provisions for how different organs of state, through mediation and arbitration, should resolve their internal disputes. It goes without saying that municipalities have to pay their bills to Eskom, but we argue that paying end-users cannot bear the brunt for issues which arise between different organs of state.”
Le Roux says Sakeliga regrets Eskom’s efforts to bypass the relevant dispute resolution mechanisms at its disposal. In its court application, Sakeliga argues: “Eskom did not only avoid approaching a Court for relief, but failed to follow any alternative dispute resolution procedures. This has culminated in the consumers of electricity having to seek relief from the Court, which entirely subverts the spirit and purpose of the legislative provisions”.