News / South Africa

Ilse de Lange
2 minute read
17 Jan 2017
12:25 pm

Brits industries take Eskom to court

Ilse de Lange

The companies also gave notice that they intended launching a review application to have Eskom's decision set aside.

Eight major industries in Brits, including Bridgestone SA, have obtained an undertaking from Eskom not to cut the electricity supply to the Madibeng municipality until January 26.

The companies launched an urgent application in the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria for an interim interdict after Eskom gave notice that it intended drastically reducing Madibeng’s electricity supply starting on January 18.

The companies also gave notice that they intended launching a review application to have Eskom’s decision set aside. Bridgestone’s human resources manager, Gerrit Greyling, said in court papers Eskom’s planned interruption of the electricity supply to Madibeng would be disastrous for large-scale industrial businesses, for which a constant and interrupted supply of electricity was vital, and for the economy of Madibeng.

The decision was taken despite Madibeng apparently paying Eskom R104 million to settle outstanding debts and the acting municipal manager assuring the industries that the debt had been settled and that an agreement had been reached with Eskom.

Greyling said, in light of Eskom’s monopoly on the generation and supply of electricity, Eskom was obliged to consider all alternative, less drastic means to enforce Madibeng’s debt.

This could have induced the withdrawal of Madibeng’s licence and Eskom taking over the electricity supply, or a recommendation to the energy minister for the appointment of an appropriate undertaker to take over the municipality’s obligations.

He said it appeared that Eskom had not considered these alternatives, but instead chose a drastic, unduly detrimental approach without properly considering alternatives or allowing meaningful participation by affected consumers.

He described Esom’s approach as harsh, draconian, irrational and capricious, adding that the entire process had been a “rushed and opaque affair” that was deliberately planned to mislead the applicants into believing that the entire matter had been resolved.

He submitted that the times of the power cuts were designed to have the maximum detrimental effect on particularly poor and vulnerable households.

In addition, the cuts would have a profound impact on the health, safety and access to water and sanitation for both residents and businesses in Madibeng, as it would cause the sewage works and water purification to come to a standstill.

He stressed that the threatened regulated interruption would result in an ongoing shortfall of water, resulting in the inevitable closure of Bridgestone for as long as the interruption continued and eventually compelling Bridgestone to close its Madibeng facility permanently and move its operations elsewhere.