/ 20 November 2018

Court prevents Eskom from cutting off Musina’s electricity

Eskom only expects its new Medupi and Kusile power stations to be working at full generation capacity in 2019.
The interim order granted by the court is subject to part B of Sakeliga's application where they want Eskom's decision to interrupt electricity supply to the town reviewed, set aside and declared unlawful. (Delwyn Verasamy/M&G)

The town of Musina in Limpopo won’t be left in the dark after Eskom was interdicted from cutting or interrupting the power supply because the municipality owes the utility money.

Sakeliga NPC brought an urgent application before the high court in Pretoria on Tuesday, seeking to interdict Eskom from going ahead with cutting the town’s power supply due to its municipality failing to make default payments.

The application was unopposed by Eskom who was cited as the first respondent. Other respondents in the application include the minister of finance, the minister of cooperative governance and traditional affairs and the national energy regulator of South Africa.

Clarity on process

The interim order granted by the court is subject to part B of Sakeliga’s application where they want Eskom’s decision to interrupt electricity supply to the town reviewed, set aside and declared unlawful.

Sakeliga also wants the court to determine what the process is to follow when a municipality is in default with Eskom.

According to court papers, Eskom published a notice to interrupt or cut power supply to the town of Musina in a local newspaper on November 2. This was after a breach of a repayment agreement by the municipality made in July this year.

Sakeliga contested that it’s unconstitutional and infringes on the rights of consumers to be deprived of basic municipal services because the municipality failed to meet its financial obligations.

“This is yet another example of a matter where law-abiding citizens, i.e consumers and end-users of electricity who diligently pay their municipal accounts to a municipality, find themselves in the untenable situation that, notwithstanding complying with their obligation and dependency on the provision of basic municipal services from the municipality with no other choices or alternatives, they stand to be prejudiced and affected,” court papers read.

No valid reasons

Furthermore, Sakeliga said that Eskom gave no valid reasons as to the intention to cut power supply in the published notices and that the threat is illegal.

“It is submitted that the threatened conduct of Eskom in proceeding to interrupt the electricity supply the second respondent (Musina Municipality) is illegal and therefore falls to be interdicted.”

Sakeliga law and policy analyst Armand Greyling welcomed the interim interdict, saying that this case will create a precedent where it comes to consumers paying for their electricity, but municipalities defaulting in paying Eskom monies due and owing.

“We believe that Eskom is bleeding economies within these towns/municipal areas dry by interrupting power supply, as the companies situated within them are unable to continue regular business operations,” said Greyling.

He added that their main arguments are entrenched in section 139 of the Constitution itself where it is stated that when a municipality is unable to adhere to its debt obligations, National Treasury and the provincial premier should be involved to intervene accordingly, as is also set out further in section 150 of the Municipal Finance Management Act.

‘Innocent victim’

“We hope that in being successful with our review application, that a court will confirm the process to be followed before Eskom can act against a municipality to the detriment of paying consumers and the local economy, if at all.”

“In the end these disputes between municipalities and Eskom have nothing to do with the consumer, who is actually the innocent victim in all of this.”

“We hope to strip Eskom of its bullying power and have administrative justice prevail for the nation, and hold government accountable for this situation getting completely out of control,” Greyling concluded. — News 24