AfriForum and AfriBusiness today announced their disappointment after Judge Fabricius ruled in Eskom’s favour that now allows the power supplier to cut the power supply of the public as a result of various municipalities’ neglect to pay their Eskom accounts.
Eskom announced its plans over the Festive Season to cut power supply to residents of various municipalities in the Northern Cape, North West and Free State because certain municipalities neglected to transfer funds that were collected from residents for electricity supply to Eskom. Billions of rands in electricity funds are owed to Eskom by municipalities. These municipalities are: Kamiesberg (Garies, Hondeklip Bay and Kamieskroon); Thembelihle (Hopetown and Strydenburg); Moqhaka (Kroonstad, Steynsrus and Viljoenskroon); Masilonyana (Brandfort, Theunissen, Verkeerdevlei and Winburg); Nketoana (Reitz, Lindley and Petrus Steyn); Mantsopa (Excelsior, Ladybrand and Tweespruit); Tokologo (Boshof and Dealesville); Nala (Bothaville and Wesselsbron); and Dihlabeng (Bethlehem, Paul Roux and Rosendal).
During the urgent application, the court touched on arguments that AfriForum and AfriBusiness had prepared for the main court application on 22 March 2017. Today’s ruling indicates that those arguments did not succeed and both organisations will have to consider whether they indeed want to continue with the court application or if the application will be abandoned.
AfriForum and AfriBusiness remain of the opinion that Eskom, as a state-managed entity, has other legal measures at its disposal to recover its fees. To punish paying and law abiding citizens and institutions for the negligence of incompetent municipal administrations does not make sense. The approach of Eskom to threaten with the summary power cuts of full municipal areas remains a draconic and unconstitutional measure which boils down to collective disadvantage of payers, as well as non-payers.
According to Marcus Pawson, Head of Local Government and Environmental Affairs for AfriForum, electricity is classified as an essential service and paying service-consumers, old-age homes, hospitals, schools and emergency services are being disadvantaged due to the culture of non-payment among certain residents and the mismanagement of municipalities by incompetent officials. Municipalities along with the provinces and national government must fulfil their responsibility toward Eskom.
“We have sympathy with Eskom and its frustrations with municipal officials, but at the same time Eskom cannot solely hold municipalities responsible for its financial situation while Soweto alone has debt similar to that of the top ten municipalities in arrears. Questions must be asked over why remote areas are being punished and not Soweto?” says Pawson.