Johannesburg – Eskom and the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) are facing legal action to force the troubled power utility to end load shedding and reverse the recently approved an 18.65% tariff hikes from April 1.
The DA wants to interdict the implementation of the decision to effect the increases pending another application to challenge the government’s implementation of load shedding and its general response to the country’s energy crisis.
In papers filed at the North Gauteng High Court this week, DA leader John Steenhuisen states that part B of the official opposition’s application is a semi-urgent review of various decisions taken by the government in response to the ongoing energy crisis.
“Nersa decided that Eskom is entitled to recover R318 billion from all its customers in the 2023/24 financial year and R352bn in the next financial year. These revenues appear to translate to an increase in electricity tariffs of over 30% in the next two years,” reads the DA’s founding affidavit.
According to the DA, Nersa’s decision is inconsistent with the Constitution and the party wants the high court to declare it as such and to set it aside. It argues that Nersa and Eskom shouldn’t implement the decision to increase tariffs as it is irrational, unlawful and unreasonable.
The DA cites Nersa, Eskom, President Cyril Ramaphosa and a number of his Cabinet ministers and the nine provincial premiers as respondents.
”Nersa’s decision constitutes an irrational, unreasonable retrogressive measure,” the DA said, adding that Eskom’s tariffs had increased by 653% for all customers since 2007.
Steenhuisen said Nersa’s decision was based on the flawed premise that an increase in tariffs will somehow assist the power utility in recovering from its financial circumstances and providing electricity to its customers.
Nersa’s Charles Hlebela said the regulator still needs to go through the DA’s court papers and advise on the way forward.
In a separate matter, Mabuza Attorneys, Buthelezi Vilakazi Inc, Makangela Mtungani Inc, Mketsu & Associates Inc, Mphahlele & Masipa Inc, Madlanga & Partners Inc and Ntanga Nkuhlu Inc Attorneys, as well UDM leader Bantu Holomisa, Build One South Africa founder Mmusi Maimane, the IFP, the National Union of Metalworkers of SA and policy analyst Lukhona Mnguni, among others, are demanding an end to load shedding.
They are demanding an undertaking from Eskom that there will be no load shedding without procedural fairness and a fair opportunity to make alternative arrangements for affected persons and businesses.
“That load shedding will stop with immediate effect, and if not, a full explanation about why the government is unable to stop load shedding with immediate effect.
“In the alternative, we are instructed to demand a specific timetable as to when load shedding will end, and the reasons for the said timetable,” reads the letter from Mabuza Attorneys to Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan and Eskom.
The group is demanding that the state commits to compensating everyone who has suffered quantifiable financial losses because of load shedding.
In addition, they want the government to develop and make publicly available a clear plan to end load shedding, which plan must include the resources available to ensure that it is realised.
According to the letter of demand, the 18.65% increase granted by Nersa must not be implemented pending the determination of the court challenge which Mabuza Attorneys’ clients intend to institute.
They also want the government, through any lawfully created mechanism, to make reasonable disclosures to the public on the challenges driving the energy crisis and the solutions implemented to solve it.
Gordhan and Eskom were given until yesterday (Friday) to give the undertakings sought by Mabuza Attorneys’ clients or face a court application to secure appropriate relief.
“If we are compelled to bring proceedings which we hope to avoid, papers shall be lodged on January 23, 2023, for urgent relief,” the law firm threatened.
Eskom confirmed that it had received a letter of demand from Mabuza Attorneys and will assess the content of the letter and respond accordingly.