Threat of legal action helps keep lights on

Picture: Thinkstock

Picture: Thinkstock

A threat of legal action by a Mpumalanga businessperson against the Emalahleni local municipality over frequent electricity supply cuts appears to have paid off.

Kobus Pieters, owner of Witbank Abattoir, last month gave municipality manager Theo van Vuuren until June 4 to inform him if the council had made an arrangement with Eskom to settle its electricity debt, or face high court action.

This was in relation to an announcement made by Eskom in April that it was considering bulk electricity supply interruptions to the top 20 defaulting municipalities countrywide with effect from June 5.

The utility said the total municipal arrears debt greater than 30 days was R4.6 billion.

Of this amount, the top 20 defaulting municipalities were currently indebted to Eskom to the tune of R3.68 billion for the bulk supply of electricity.

Pieters gave the municipality an ultimatum through his lawyer, Norman Davis, who authored the memorandum.

The memorandum, a copy of which The Citizen has seen, states Pieters’s business currently employed more than 140 people and could not slaughter, cool and freeze meat without an uninterrupted supply of water and electricity.

Pieters told The Citizen yesterday he was relieved the municipality had kept the lights on

beyond June 4.

“We filed the court papers on Thursday (June 4) and got a call from them at 6pm the same day that there would be no power cut. If the power goes off again, we will go to court,” said Pieters.

According to Pieters, his business was fully paid-up on its water, electricity and service accounts, with the necessary bank guarantees for security to ensure accounts remained paid.

Eskom spokesperson Khulu Phasiwe said the Ngwathe and Maluti-A-Phofung municipalities in the Free State were the only two defaulting municipalities that did not make arrangements to pay.

“We will not interrupt the electricity supply of these municipalities because their matter is before the court,” said Phasiwe.

Eskom would still interrupt the power supply of the other 18 municipalities if they reneged on the agreements to pay, he said.

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