Michele du Plessis
From the outset, it is critical for all citizens within the Thaba Chweu area to understand that although there appears to be an agreement between Eskom and TCLM not to cut electric power to the municipality, this has only been formally confirmed by Eskom in such a manner that from month to month, Eskom reserves the right to cut power in the event of TCLM failing to honour the agreement (TCLM has reneged on every agreement so far). Accordingly, the status quo is that the appeal in the Bloemfontein Supreme Court of Appeal still stands.
Electricity is not seen in SA law as a fundamental human right. However, water and sanitation are. Those of you who have read the latest GPS News will have seen the article headed (the “Top 21”) Dire Consequences. For those who have not seen the article, we urge you to do so.
What alternatives are there?
- Eskom could sue TCLM directly in Court and not punish those who have already paid for the electricity that they have received.
- To date, Eskom has not selected this option; instead, opting for the draconian measure of disconnecting power to those who have paid for a service. This will be argued during the appeal.
- There is no doubt whatsoever that TCLM has been singularly inept in their management of this crisis and Eskom has the right of recourse on that.
- If Eskom takes TCLM to Court, they could (subject to Law) attach TCLM assets and dispose of them. Eskom does not appear to have explored this option.
- There is nothing that we know of that should stop Eskom from applying for TCLM to be placed under immediate Administration and then deal with the Administrators regarding a way forward.
- Consumers pay Eskom directly.
- This cannot be done overnight. The simple fact of the matter is that Nersa has granted a distribution licence to TCLM and until they revoke that, we will not be allowed to pay Eskom directly.
- Bring in a company such as Rural to take over the management of the electricity distribution from TCLM, pay the debt to Eskom over several years, re-vamp ailing and aged infrastructure and get the electricity supply and distribution back on track.
- As logical as this alternative sounds; TCLM has so far rejected this option out of hand.
- Class action suit against TCLM (and individuals within it).
- The Sabie Ratepayers Association (SRA) is currently exploring this option not only regarding Eskom but regarding the entire matter of service delivery. This will be time consuming, costly and is not a “quick fix”.
The above alternatives are just not viable right now.
Our Attorneys of Record and their Council have taken a “leap of faith” and have proceeded with drawing up the Heads of Argument, to be submitted by them on our behalf, hopefully still this week. We will advise you more about this once we have details, but it is a very positive step forward that will result in a Court Date being set soon.
Information from the Bulletin updates by the Combined Chambers of Commerce of Sabie, Graskop and Lydenburg.