Eskom ordered to restore adequate supply to Lekwa, Ngwathe

Decision to throttle suspended pending review.
‘Eskom has become the proverbial cholesterol in the municipal service delivery breakdown,’ said acting judge Millar. Image: Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg

Two groups of residents of the Lekwa (Standerton) and Ngwathe (Parys) municipalities have the right not only of access to electricity supplied by Eskom, but to enough of it to sustain the most basic human rights guaranteed in the constitution.

This was one of the findings made by acting judge Anthony Millar in the High Court in Johannesburg on Friday, when he granted an application from residents of the two municipalities and ordered Eskom to urgently restore electricity supply to recent, adequate levels.

Read: Eskom blamed for ‘human catastrophe’ in Lekwa and Ngwathe

He also hit Eskom and the two municipalities with punitive cost orders, citing Eskom’s uncaring attitude to the hardship its earlier decision to throttle electricity supply imposed on residents.

The two applications dealt with substantially the same issues and were heard together.

Eskom’s latest strategy thwarted?

Millar’s order casts doubt over Eskom’s latest strategy to deal with municipalities that owe it large amounts. The utility has in the last few months limited electricity supply to these two and many other municipalities in various provinces to contractually agreed but wholly inadequate levels that were set many years ago.

Read: Emfuleni: Eskom not half done taking municipality’s cars, furniture

It embarked on this strategy after losing several court battles about the disconnection of such municipalities.

Eskom’s decision has forced the affected municipalities to implement localised load shedding daily, which at times even coincided with national load shedding imposed by Eskom.

According to the applicants this led to a human and environmental disaster with among other things, untreated sewage from hundreds of thousands of people running into the Vaal River, which is also the main water source for the whole of Gauteng.

The plight of residents who pay for electricity but suffer power cuts as a result of Eskom’s action against municipalities, which don’t in turn pay for the bulk electricity purchases from the utility, has been the subject of a lot of litigation.

The application by the Lekwa Ratepayers Association and the Vaal River Development Association was however the first dealing with Eskom’s throttling strategy.

The court heard that Eskom has for an extended period supplied more electricity to both municipalities than the 24 300 kilo-volt-amperes (kVA) agreed upon with Lekwa in 2008 and the 55 000 kVA agreed upon with Ngwathe in 2010.

Eskom did not limit the supply to this notified maximum demand (NMD) but imposed extremely punitive penalties. When municipalities fall in arrears, it charges interest at the prime lending rate plus 5%.

Although municipalities have the option in terms of the NMD rules to increase the NMD, and despite both municipalities submitting such applications, Eskom will not approve such applications if the relevant municipality is in arrears and fails to make large prepayments.

Catch-22

Millar pointed out that the municipalities have no alternative. Eskom has the monopoly on electricity supply.

“For as long as the NMD penalties and interest charges which Eskom levies on the municipalities exceed the cost of actual consumption, paying customers will be saddled with hopelessly insolvent municipalities that have no prospect whatsoever, without outside intervention or assistance, of paying their outstanding debt to Eskom. The result is a Catch-22 situation for the applicants and consumers in the municipalities and Eskom has become the proverbial cholesterol in the municipal service delivery breakdown in Ngwathe and Lekwa. They simply have no other recourse than to approach the court,” Millar said.

He rejected Eskom’s argument that it merely acted according to its contracts with the municipalities and had no obligation towards the residents, because they are not party to the contracts.

Millar said Eskom was ignoring previous court rulings that made it clear that Eskom as an organ of state must follow a fair process when its decision will impose on the rights of residents. It did not do so in these two cases.

There is also an obligation on Eskom to try to resolve its disputes with the municipalities before taking action that brings about huge human suffering.

Some of the options open to Eskom included arbitration, which the contracts provide for, or appealing to energy regulator Nersa to intervene.

Millar ordered that the electricity supply to the two municipalities be restored until a court rules on a review of Eskom’s decision. The applicants must bring these applications before October 30.

In the case of Lekwa the supply can be restored right away, while in Ngwathe Eskom must do some repairs to the infrastructure that will cost little more than R100 000, an amount dwarfed by the ongoing suffering caused by the power problems.

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Given the above judgement, does Loadsheding not constitute a violation of basic human rights ?

Now it’s time for class action law suit, the people of South Africa vs Municipalities vs Eskom vs ANC.

If we the anc will not deliver on basic services, use the police to manhandle minority right group protesting then we need to SUE THEM.

#VoetsekANC

Seems the court has lost the plot. Instead of applying the principles of law it applies the principles of “social justice” as by the ANC. If Eskom had any brains -which they have not- I would take it on appeal and ignore the order because the court cannot make an order which is practically impossible to implement.

The ONLY way that the utility and SA can survive is when everyone (through the munies) each pay their way.

User pays or user needs to get cut off. Simple.

Not so. The way to survive is to let those that actually pay for electricity, pay more and at the same time pay for those that do not pay at all. This is the African and cANCer way.

This is the socialist system and the fundamental structure of communism disguised as ANC. Corruption has brought this upon SA citizens. Those with means will be plundered for those without. SA is just another Zimbabwe in the making. Made in Africa

The other problem is that it seems that some munies do collect and then use the money collected to make up “shortfalls” in their budgets instead of paying Eskom.

and now the courts have effectively enabled this skulduggery. Such is the ANC SA. The same courts have also effectively entrenched the Eskom monopoly by denying the CoCT bid to purchase power from other sources.

This whole country gas ended up in one big disgusting mess.

The ANC must disband. Early elections please.

And that comes from a person who does not even vote.

No need for any election. We know the winner of this and future elections are …

The system is too big, they uneducated/poorly informed voters are too many, and loyalty is too high.

What we need is a more localised form of election, which have a more equal representation at the highest level of governance.
At the moment if you are a part of a small but medium income district but the town incorporate a large township which votes for a corrupt party then you district has a force form of dictatorship endowed upon it, which will lead to choice and decisions being made by incapable people.
Now had your district being in a position to choose a party and that party was elevated to so same level of voting rights as the large township, then we would see equality in democracy truly work.
Detailed Explanation of a Equality Based Voting System:
Closest 19 people in a given area choose 1 Principle and 1 Deputy who will represent the 19 people best,
The chosen 1 principle will then gather in a group of 18 other principles which will make up 19.
This will continue until the highest level of governance, whereby these people will begin the final voting session which concludes with 9 Provincial Counsellors; 8 Ministers and 1 President.
The various roles of the elected:
Each Principle will communicate the Concerns/Suggestions of the 19 people which they represent the next elected level to try and resolve and if it cannot then will continue to escalate until it reaches the President. As the Principles level goes up, they would be in a position to interview prospective employees who would work at various municipal levels so as to provide the services.

This system calls for the disbanding political parties and cadre in municipalities

Absolutely politicians have no accountability. In the area where I live people want to vote DA but are completely pi$$ed off with the ward councilor. Ratepayers have have to stomach this and still pay the high salaries.

This is Africa.
Your ideals and local culture collide.

I don’t know….after reading the judgement in the context of a failing government monopoly on electricity supply, I come to the conclusion that the constitution is a farce, and the judiciary are actors in the farce. They are trying to enforce a set of rules that are corroding the bench they are sitting on.

It won’t be long before we have no electricity, a worthless constitution and an irrelevant judiciary. We will come full circle back to a chieftainship.

I always wonder that with such rulings what the municipalities and metros would do when those residents who have been paying their electricity bills for years suddenly only paid 10% of their assessed commitments – legally they would not be able to cut the service for non payment as a token payment is being made. Those faithful payers could also extend this to water, services and rates/taxes – should make the muni’s fail in a short period of time

Those of us on prepaid HAVE to pay otherwise we have no electricity.

Electricity is NOT a basic human right. If it was it would grow on trees, or could be collected in buckets like rain. Who do these useless people think is going to pay for their free electricity? The guvvament? NO! The taxpayer!

SOLUTION…SOLUTION…SOLUTION…SOLUTION…SOLUTION…SOLUTION…

The practice of individual household rates and taxes collection is a cumbersome and failing system to sustain our municipalities… VAT tax is a novel but sure as daylight a viable proposal. One day, I hope it wont be late by then, the government will consider this approach. Scrap municipal billing of municipal services(Eskom ASAP), increase VAT by 2 to 3 percent. every Tom, Dick and Harry will fund these services as and when they buy goods and services. No late payment, no defaulting no stealing of electricity and no meter bridging.

SARS collects the VAT. Treasury disburses to municipalities as per the needs and requirements. From salaries to pothole fixing. These useless municipalities can longer be trusted with the communities hard earned money.

When something does not work, change it and get something else that is fit for purpose.

Agree Boombang. Another way to get everybody to pay is to add R10-00 to every liter of fuel. That way even the taxi lot get to pay some tax.

if only everyone could buy directly from eskom,with a prepaid meter.

Well the court order was ignored by either Lekwa Local Municipality or ESKOM as we had load shedding ( also known as Lekwa shedding ) last night and this morning. They just do not care about court orders.
One of many frustrated Lekwa residents

End of comments.

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