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Court stops Eskom from pulling the plug

A COURT interdict has banned Eskom from cutting power supply to Komani and Tarkastad as the power utility had scheduled to implement periodic blackouts in the two towns as from Monday, November 25 over a debt of R309 million.

Eskom had demanded that the municipality pay the state-owned power generator a sum of R163 million within a period of 40 days which is going to lapse on December 10 – an amount which the mayor for the Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality admitted that they couldn’t afford to raise and had set their hopes on the municipality’s equitable share which is said to be withheld by the treasury.

Eskom’s decision to cut the power supply to the municipality came after the local authority had failed to honour a payment agreement of R30 million a month which the two parties had entered into.

Seeing that the municipality was running out of plans and the date of the blackouts was fast approaching, an interdict was brought before the Grahamstown High Court by the Border-Kei Chamber of Business, supported by local businesses, namely Twizza, Crickley Dairy, Farmhouse Frozen Foods, King Fisher Industries and Shell Ultra, as well as the community of civic organisations under the ‘Let’s Talk Komani’ banner.

On Monday this week, the Grahamstown High Court ruled in favour of the Border-Kei Chamber of Business and local businesses against Eskom and issued an interdict in their favour pending the finalisation of the main application, which is to be heard on December 12, 2019.

During the same time last year, the Komani Business Community and the Border-Kei Chamber of Business took Eskom to court to interdict them from interrupting power supply to Komani.

In their submissions they had also requested that the court instruct the municipality to ring-fence one of the municipality’s accounts where monies for electricity are deposited so the money from consu-mers could be paid directly to Eskom and not used for unintended purposes. The outcome of the December 12 case will determine a way forward on the fight to keep the lights on.

This week’s court ruling was warmly received by the Komani business community and Let’s Talk Komani.

Spokesperson for the Komani business community, Jacques van Zyl, said the effects of the power cuts would have been catastrophic to the livelihoods of both businesses and residents.

“A special thanks go to Border-Kei Chamber of Business, the Komani business community and everyone who supported the process.

“Businesses would have lost on a large scale at a time when they should be making money as we are approaching Christmas and all the festivities on the way.

“And when businesses lose money, sadly they also have to make measures to stay afloat which would have resulted in job losses,” said Van Zyl.

He said all they wanted was to see things going back to normal where the municipality paid what is due to Eskom at the right time and continue providing good services to taxpayers.

Jacqueline Wijtenburg, of Let’s Talk Komani, said the court decision supported established and emerging businesses to continue providing employment, as well as protecting health institutions, schools, tertiary education institutions, farmers and faith-based organisations, who in turn assist the municipality’s most vulnerable citizens.

“We applaud two of our participants, Phakamisi Komani, a proactive forum representing five local established businesses, and the Border-Kei Chamber of Business, for taking the lead to secure electricity for the socio-economic well-being of the town at large,” she said.

All eyes are now on the initial application set to be heard on December 12 at the same court in Makhanda (Grahamstown).

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