Home South African Municipalities take on Eskom over electricity distribution

Municipalities take on Eskom over electricity distribution

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Eskom is facing legal action from municipalities that owe billions of rand to the power utility.

File picture: Reuters, Siphiwe Sibeko

ESKOM is facing legal action from municipalities that owe billions of rands to the power utility.

The SA Local Government Association (Salga), the representative body for the country’s 257 municipalities, said it wants Eskom’s supply of electricity within municipal jurisdictions declared unconstitutional.

”Based on legal opinions largely contending that municipalities have an exclusive right to electricity reticulation within their jurisdictions, Eskom’s action has now left Salga with no other option but to approach the courts for an order declaring Eskom unable to function efficiently,” the association’s chief executive officer Sithole Mbanga said earlier this month.

“Should the court find that Eskom’s distribution of electricity within municipal areas is indeed unconstitutional, then the court may make a just and equitable order in terms of section 172(1)(b) [of the Constitution] directing that Eskom hand over distribution of electricity within municipal areas to the relevant municipalities, alternatively directing that Eskom enter into SDAs [service delivery agreements].”

Salga also said that despite its attempts to amicably resolve the matter of outstanding municipal debts to the power utility – in line with intergovernmental relations dispute-resolution mechanisms – Eskom had unilaterally elected not to adhere to any arrangements.

On electricity distribution, it said that despite agreements having being entered into between Eskom and municipalities, the power utility had further delayed implementation of SDAs by unreasonably raising concerns over terms and conditions.

”It goes without saying that the proposed SDAs will be worthless if Eskom refuses to be a contracting party,” Salga explained.

The situation had become untenable for municipalities, which were constantly threatened with disconnection by Eskom.

”A number of these matters have also been escalated and ventilated in our courts of law, with the resultant consequence of, for instance, the attachment of municipal land in Matjhabeng Municipality, [as well as] the bank account of Maluti-a-Phofung Local Municipality and the fleet of Emfuleni Local Municipality,” the association complained.

The office of the deputy president has agreed to appoint a facilitator to process and verify debt owed by organs of state to both municipalities and Eskom.

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