The business organisation Sakeliga has requested an urgent meeting with Eskom management. This follows recent attempts by Eskom to terminate bulk power supply to a number of municipalities throughout South Africa due to non-payment.
According to Sakeliga legal analyst, Daniel du Plessis, Eskom’s conduct is unlikely to withstand judicial scrutiny.” These terminations are being carried out at extremely short notice – and over the holiday season to boot. Accordingly, many consumers and municipalities will have little to no time to appraise themselves of the situation – nor to seek legal advice or draft presentations.”
“Irrespective of the legitimacy of Eskom’s claims, it is highly likely that this administrative action will be rejected by the courts, even if only on procedural grounds. Sakeliga believes that this will not improve Eskom’s situation in any material way. In fact, it is likely to entangle it in additional, expensive litigation.”
Sakeliga is currently acting as amicus curiae in a case involving Eskom that is due to be heard in the Supreme Court of Appeal next year. It has, on other occasions, litigated against the utility to prevent power cuts to municipalities in the absence of the appropriate procedure.
Municipal debt to Eskom had, by October of this year, ballooned to R20bn. Sakeliga believes that Eskom should be allowed to recover this debt, but that it would be wrong to punish end-users for municipalities’ failure to pay.
“Eskom is, of course, entitled to recover debts owed to it by municipalities. The fault, however, often-times does not lie with the actual end-user and many paying customers are facing the prospect of a December without electricity through no fault of their own.”
Sakeliga has requested an urgent meeting with Eskom’s management to discuss having solutions for bypassing ineffectual municipalities, such as the ring-fencing of electricity payments made by end-users.
“Without electricity, local businesses will be unable to serve customers or employ workers. If that happens, it could mean the end of that municipality’s local economy – making it even less likely that Eskom will be able to recover the debts owed to it.”
“It is in light of this fact that we have requested this meeting. Ultimately, the interests of Eskom and local businesses overlap quite substantially – and an equitable solution can only be of benefit to all parties involved,” du Plessis concluded.