The Grahamstown Business Forum says it will closely monitor the case by a group of Queenstown businesses that have sought to have the local municipality’s electricity account ring-fenced for electricity payments. This follows an interdict issued in the High Court in Makhanda (Grahamstown) on Tuesday 20 November halting Eskom’s threat to cut electricity to the Enoch Mgijima Municipality.
Makhanda (Grahamstown) based law firm Wheeldon Rushmere & Cole Incorporated this week announced that their interdict on behalf of a group of Queenstown businesses had successfully blocked Eskom from implementing electricity cuts that were due to start there on Tuesday 20 November 2018. Meanwhile, local organisations are poised to support similar action should there be a renewed threat of electricity cuts here. The interdict was granted in the High Court in Grahamstown on Tuesday 20 November.
In the statement, Wheeldon Rushmere & Cole said that on 27 September this year Eskom published its intention to cut off the electricity for the Enoch Mgijima Municipal area (including Komani, Sterkstroom, and Whittlesea) on 20 November 2018. The Border-Kei Chamber of Business, Twizza, Crickley Dairy, Farmhouse Frozen Foods, King Fisher Industries, and Shell Ultra City brought an urgent application to interdict Eskom from doing so.
The applicants had also asked inter alia that Eskom and Enoch Mgijima Municipality should enter into a payment plan within three days, that the payment plan be made an order of court, that an official of the municipality report to the court on a monthly basis, and that the electricity account be ring-fenced and be utilised for electricity only.
Eskom and Enoch Mgijima Municipality (which is under administration) agreed that Eskom be interdicted from cutting off the electricity, and could only cut off electricity after giving three weeks’ notice to the applicants and the citizens of Enoch Mgijima Municipality.
The parties would now file further affidavits to determine whether the further interdicts sought by the applicants would be granted, the firm said.
Eskom had already agreed to orders relating to the payment plan; however, Enoch Mgijima Municipality had filed an affidavit saying the further interdicts would be an interference with its right to govern. The matter would be heard early next year.
“Wheeldon Rushmere & Cole Incorporated (Ref: Mr Brody), acting on behalf of the applicants, are delighted at the agreement reached today,” the firm said in their statement. “The proposed interruption would have been devastating to all civic society, businesses, factories, and citizens of Enoch Mgijima Municipality.”
What had also featured in the applicants founding affidavit was that the municipality had utilised R77 million from its electricity account for other services without paying that amount over to Eskom.
This was also the third payment plan agreed by Enoch Mgijima Municipality and the third time that business and the citizens of that municipality had faced an imminent electricity crisis.
Eskom published a notice in a regional newspaper on 12 October 2018 warning of scheduled interruptions to Makana’s supply from 8 December 2018 due to non-payment.
On 5 November, Grocott’s Mail reported that legal action by local business people had been put on hold after evidence that Makana Municipality was back on track with its payments to Eskom. However, litigation would remain an option should things change.
Asked to comment this week on the Enoch Mgijima Municipality interdict, Grahamstown Business Forum Chairperson Richard Gaybba said, “We note the court action and will monitor the case closely.”
The Grahamstown Residents Association said they had been preparing to support possible similar court action locally, should the need arise.
“In the event, Makana resolved the crisis by paying off some Eskom debt and reaching an agreement,” GRA Secretary Tim Bull said. “GRA will be monitoring payments by Makana to Eskom monthly, ready to intervene if needed.”
* Updated 22 November 2019.