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Soweto court bid for power struck off roll

Residents of Soweto took Eskom to court, demanding electricity. /Thulani Mbele
Residents of Soweto took Eskom to court, demanding electricity. /Thulani Mbele

The urgent application brought before the South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg by Soweto residents to get their electricity back and pay a monthly flat rate was struck off the roll yesterday.

Acting judge Marcus Senyatsi tore the application by Lungelo Lethu Human Rights Foundation to pieces and also dismissed its urgency.

The foundation's president King Sibiya brought the application on behalf of 250 Soweto residents who have lived for months without electricity.

In most cases, electricity boxes connecting their homes to the grid either caught fire or malfunctioned, residents said. Eskom refused to restore the electricity as they owed it money.

The foundation wanted the court to order Eskom to scrap the debt owed by the residents, reconnect their electricity and charge them a flat rate of R100 a month. Soweto as a whole owes Eskom R18bn in debt.

But Senyatsi said: "Who is Soweto community? Why are the residents not cited as applicants in these papers? Soweto community is not an entity. It can't be before this court . This seems to be a petition.

"We don't even know whether the people here have a relationship with Eskom or the City of Johannesburg."

He asked why Sibiya did not ask organisations such as Lawyers For Human Rights, Legal Aid SA or the Wits Law Clinic to represent residents. Sibiya told the court the organisations were not willing to take up the matter.

Sibiya confirmed he was not a lawyer but was doing this as a community leader, out of the goodness of his heart.

"I commend the effort you made to bring this application before this court but it cannot stand. This matter is not urgent and cannot be heard," Senyatsi said to a disappointed packed court room.

Most residents who were part of the application are pensioners who said they have no money to pay their Eskom debt.

Eskom lawyer Sydwell Shangisa said: "We also had a great difficulty responding to some of the allegations made in the papers. We request that the matter be struck off the roll with no cost."

Lawyers representing the City of Johannesburg questioned why it was cited as a respondent as the metro does not provide electricity to Soweto.

A disappointed Sibiya told Sowetan: "We will meet on Sunday at Regina Mundi [church in Rockville] . to decide on our way forward."

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