Civil rights groups AfriForum and AfriBusiness are seeking an urgent interdict to stop Eskom’s plans to cut the power supply to seven municipalities on Thursday because of the municipalities’ failure to settle their accounts with the electricity supplier.
Judge Hans Fabricius today said he would hear the applications tomorrow, but was concerned about the jurisdiction of the court as the municipalities all fell outside the jurisdiction of the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria.
The two organisations say they do not want to act on behalf of the municipalities, but are approaching the court in the interest of the public for an order that in principle Eskom cannot cut off the electricity supply to whole municipalities.
The organisations say this move will penalise law-abiding citizens who pay for their electricity every month.
A main application centering on Eskom’s policy will be heard in the High Court in March, but Eskom was not prepared to give an undertaking not to cut off the electricity supply to municipalities pending the outcome of that application.
The latest application follows after it came to light during the festive season that Eskom was planning to cut to power supply to residents of various municipalities in the Northern Cape, North West and the Free State for certain hours of the day.
This was because the municipalities had failed to transfer to Eskom funds amounting to billions of rands collected from residents for electricity.
AfriForum and AfriBusiness are of the view that Eskom, as a state-managed entity, had 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 is a draconic [sic] and unconstitutional measure which boils down to collective disadvantage of payers, as well as non-payers.
“We cannot allow paying service-consumers, old age homes, hospitals, schools and emergency services to be disadvantaged due to the culture of non-payment among certain residents and the mismanagement of municipalities by incompetent officials.
“Eskom previously undertook to not proceed with power cuts before the conclusion of the court application in March. The plans to now cut the power of eight municipalities are in contradiction with Eskom’s earlier undertaking; therefore, we are now approaching the court for urgent help,” AfriForum’s legal representative Willie Spies said.
The application is aimed at forcing Eskom to restore the electricity supply to, among others, Hopetown, Barkley West and Strydenburg in the Northern Cape.