Having been officially authorized to disconnect power from all municipalities owing it, the State own power utility, Eskom, says it would embark on power disconnection of all its defaulters from January 16.
Eskom says it has been fair to non-paying customers and municipalities who have failed to pay for their electricity. It however, warned that it will cut off power from several Free State municipalities if an arrangement is not made by the 16th of this month.
The power utility made this announcement after the North Gauteng High Court ruled in its favour, authorizing it to cut power supply from eight municipalities, as it tries to recover billions of rand in debt.
The high court also dismissed an urgent case brought by AfriForum, seeking to block Eskom from disconnecting the eight municipalities in the provinces on the planned date of 5 January.
The civil right group 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.
The high court, however, dismissed the 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.
A number of customers have complained that the same threat was not made to residents in Soweto where non-payment has also been an issue.
Responding to this, Eskom’s Khulu Phasiwe explained that Soweto is not a municipality.
“When we switch off anyone in Soweto we switch them off individually,” he said, adding that the Free State municipalities now have 10 days to pay up.
“After careful consideration of the impact of the public holidays over the festive period, and the commitment made in court today during the AfriForum case, Eskom has decided to postpone the interruption of supply to these municipalities from 5 January 2017 to 16 January 2017.”
“This will allow all impacted stakeholders more time to prepare accordingly,” Phasiwe said.
The seven affected municipalities in the Free State are:
- Dihlabeng, and
The three municipalities in the North West are:
- Mamusa, and