Court halts Eskom's planned blackouts in EC towns

Image: Dean Hutton/Bloomberg

Towns falling under the broke and ailing Enoch Mgijima Municipality have been granted a reprieve from electricity blackouts after the Grahamstown High Court on Monday urgently interdicted Eskom from planned electricity outages to the region.

The municipality, which owes Eskom over a quarter of a billion rand, were notified in October that Eskom would proceed with prolonged electricity outages from Tuesday unless the municipality coughed up what was owed.

The municipality has breached several payment plans put in place between it and the beleaguered electricity supplier. The last one agreed to in November last year was made an order of court. But, the municipality once again broke its promise to pay, which Eskom said left it with no choice but to limit or cut off supply.

But, Judge Gerald Bloem on Monday morning issued an urgent interim interdict prohibiting Eskom from carrying out its planned electricity interruptions to the municipality which includes Komani, Hofmeyr, Molteno, Sada, Sterkstroom, Tarkastad, and Whittlesea.

The Border-Kei chamber of commerce and several businesses in the region, including Twizza, Crickleys Dairy, Farmhouse Frozen Foods and Shell Ultra City resorted to court last week to urgently interdict Eskom’s plans to ration the municipality’s supply which they said would result in a collapse in their businesses and a “human catastrophe” for the region.

It was argued that if the region was denied electricity for prolonged periods, it would effectively destroy the economy of the region, so wrecking the municipalities collection base and any future chance of it ever being able to pay its R270m electricity debt. This, they argued in the Grahamstown high court, was not a rational decision by Eskom.

The interdict will remain in place until the outcome of an application to be heard in mid-December in terms of which the same businesses are asking the high court to order the municipality to ring-fence all electricity-related income which should then be paid direct to Eskom. The municipality is opposing that application.

Despite having an interest in protecting its own rights and that of its citizens, the municipality did not show up in court last week to put its point of view in the interdict against Eskom.

Attorney for the businesses, Brin Brody, said that Bloem had also ordered Eskom to pay the costs of the urgent application, including the cost of two counsel.

Bloem indicated last week that he would give reasons for his order as soon as possible

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