The High Court in Northern Cape has granted the state power utility Eskom, the right to disconnect ten municipalities which have failed to pay the billions of rands they owe the company.
Eskom received the right to deal with its debtors after the high court dismissed AfriForum’s court interdict on the matter.
AfriForum had last year, applied for an urgent interdict in the High Court in Pretoria to stop Eskom from cutting electricity to five municipalities who owe it money.
The application by the civil rights group came after the power utility announced its intention to take over the collection of electricity revenue in municipalities that owe it money.
Eskom’s group executive in charge of customer service, Yanda Noah had at that time revealed that revealed that outstanding municipal payments stood at R6 billion at the end of March and that discussions about arrangements to pay were underway with 42 municipalities.
But, in its affidavit, Afriforum argued that by cutting the electricity supply Eskom would be punishing law abiding citizens who are paying their accounts. The group went on to argue that Eskom has other mechanisms to recover the money owed to it.
However, the court has dismissed AfriForum’s case (with costs), saying that municipalities must be held accountable for the unpaid amounts, and that the right of consumers cannot overrule Eskom’s right to lawfully collect debt owed to it.
The case will continue as AfriForum tends to further battle out the lawfulness of cutting off entire municipalities in March.
Until then, Eskom has been given the go ahead to stop services to municipalities that owe it money.
The power cuts were to go ahead on Thursday (5 January), but now the municipalities – found in the Free State and North West provinces – have until 16 January to settle their accounts before being cut off.
The seven affected municipalities in the Free State are:
- Dihlabeng, and
The three municipalities in the North West are:
- Mamusa, and