Lawyers threaten legal action if loadshedding persists

Nomazima Nkosi Senior reporter
Traffic builds around traffic lights that are off due to load shedding, 07 December 2022, in Johannesburg South.
Traffic builds around traffic lights that are off due to load shedding, 07 December 2022, in Johannesburg South.
Image: Alaister Russell

Seven high-profile lawyers representing political parties, NPOs and businesses have written to public enterprises minister Pravin Gordhan and Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter threatening legal action if loadshedding is not stopped.

The group is also demanding that government does not go ahead with the implementation of the 18.65% electricity increase granted to Eskom.

Alternatively, they also demanded a specific timetable for when loadshedding would end, and the reasons for the timetable.

They said the state should develop and make publicly available a clear plan to end loadshedding, which must include the resources available to ensure it was realised.

The group is represented by Mabuza Attorneys and at least six other law firms  – Buthelezi Vilakazi Inc, Makangela Mtungani Inc, Mketsu & Associates Inc, Mphahlele & Masipa Inc, Madlanga & Partners Inc and Ntanga Nkuhlu Inc Attorneys.

The lawyers wrote should their demands not be met by Friday, January 20, they would approach the courts.

The firms represent 10 clients that include UDM president Bantu Holomisa, founder of Build One South Africa Mmusi Maimane, the IFP, the National Union of Mineworkers of SA (Numsa), Researcher at Rivonia Circle Lukhona Mnguni, Ikasi Farming owner Phiwe Mehlo, real estate agent Ntsikiie Mgayiya, Zibuyisile Sibiya CEO of The Circle, Mastered Seed Foundation and Zintle Ncalo the director of Fula Property Investment.

On Monday afternoon, Eskom announced Stage 4 loadshedding would be implemented from 5am to 4pm on Tuesday, followed by Stage 5 loadshedding from 4pm to 5am from Wednesday.

While the reduction in loadshedding was welcomed, many businesses have buckled under the pressure of the power outages.

“Our clients report that many small businesses have buckled under the strain of loadshedding. They report that these entities often miss deadlines; put up with inappropriate conditions such as stock decline and wastage and have to deal with the disappointment of their customers when they have to turn them away as they have no power to accommodate them,” the letter read.

The letter further said the state had failed in its obligational duty to provide energy to South Africans.

“The state has a Constitutional obligation to ensure that power generation, transmission and delivery accords with the reasonable consumption demands of the general public. It has failed to responsibly manage the grid, resulting in material breaches of the Constitutional rights,” the lawyers said.

Problems experienced by SMMEs during loadshedding include lack of internet, low staff morale, loss of planning, inability to trade, damaged equipment and security concerns.

“Loadshedding is tough on their businesses and can be mitigated only by long-term solutions such as the installation of solar panels and generators which they can ill-afford.  In the face of these constraints, many SMMEs are left with little option but to close their doors with offers facing the same looming prospect.

“We are instructed that the prejudice is due mainly to the unreliable electricity supply and the protracted power outages occasioned by the ever increasing number of hours per day that they are left without electricity,” the lawyers wrote.

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