The North Gauteng High Court has confirmed the constitutional right of Eskom to schedule electricity interruptions when it dismissed applications by AfriForum and other businesses.
Astral, Bridgestone, AfriForum and Mediclinic sought to prevent the power utility from performing scheduled interruptions in Madibeng, Lekwa and Kamiesberg to recover overdue debt. The applicants’ contention, heard between 2 and 3 May 2017, was that Eskom’s conduct, in all the cases, is unconstitutional, unlawful and unreasonable and should accordingly be reviewed and set aside.
The applicants’ sought different relief against the utility, including declaratory orders to the effect that it is not permitted to interrupt the supply of electricity to any local authority as a means to collect debts; interdicts restraining the utility from interrupting electricity without first obtaining an order of court authorising it to do so; orders reviewing and setting aside its decision to interrupt electricity to the municipalities on constitutional and administrative law ground; challenging the constitutionality of section 21(5) of the Electricity Regulation Act (ERA) and inviting the court to read into the section a requirement of judicial pre-authorisation for the termination or reduction of the supply of electricity when employed as a means of debt collection; and an order directing one of the applicants (Astral) to make direct payment to Eskom.
Eskom and Astral reached a settlement agreement in respect of the direct payment relief. The utility opposed all the relief sought on the other issues raised by the remaining applicants, arguing the mootness of all the cases and the legislative rights of the utility to interrupt or terminate the electricity in terms of section 21(5) of ERA.
The court agreed with all the arguments presented by Eskom and that it is allowed to disconnect defaulting customers, which includes the municipality. The power utility says the victory is a critical step in the sustainability of the utility given the levels of indebtedness within the municipal sphere.
Contact Khulu Phasiwe, Eskom, Tel 011 800-3304, firstname.lastname@example.org
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