Verdict on Eskom’s power cut plan today
Eight municipalities involved
THE NORTH Gauteng High Court will today deliver its order on AfriForum and AfriBusiness’ urgent court interdict to stop Eskom from cutting power supply to eight defaulting municipalities in various provinces, AfriForum said yesterday.
The organisations on Monday said the power utility planned to cut power supply to residents of several 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.”
Eskom is grappling with ballooning municipality debt. In the year ended March 31, 2016, the utility’s total municipal arrear debt, including interest, was R6 billion, up from R5bn in the previous financial year.
In its 2016 annual report, Eskom said the top 20 defaulting municipalities contributed R4.8bn to municipal arrear debt, or approximately 80 percent of the total arrears. It said 82 percent of the municipal arrear debt was concentrated in the Free State, Mpumalanga and North West municipalities, contributing 47 percent, 24 percent and 11 percent, respectively. “At year end, 11 of the top 20 defaulting municipalities had total overdue debt greater than R100 million each,” Eskom said.
In 2015, Eskom informed defaulting municipalities of its intentions to interrupt power supply. But AfriForum and AfriBusiness are challenging the legality of the move. In March this year, the Pretoria High Court will hear the organisations’ application to determine the constitutionality of Eskom’s actions. The organisations blamed poor management at the various municipalities for the electricity arrears.
Willie Spies, legal representative of AfriForum and AfriBusiness, said that Eskom had previously said it would not proceed with power cuts before the conclusion of the court application in March. “The plan to cut the power of eight municipalities is in contradiction with Eskom’s earlier undertaking. Therefore, we are now approaching the court for urgent help,” said Spies.
AfriForum and AfriBusiness this week said 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 and unconstitutional measure, which boils down to collective disadvantage of payers, as well as non-payers,” they said.
Eskom is grappling with ballooning municipality debt. The power utility plans to cut power supply to residents of several municipalities in the Northern Cape, North West and Free State.