Several hundred Soweto residents, led by the Lungelo Lethu Human Rights Foundation (LLHRF), are planning to take Eskom to the Gauteng High Court (Johannesburg) to stop the utility carrying out what they say are arbitrary and discriminatory electricity disconnections.

LLHRF intends asking the court to compel Eskom to set up a fair and independent tribunal to adjudicate the complaints.

Summons will be served on Eskom in the coming weeks, notes a Moneyweb report. Eskom’s annual report says it is owed R18bn in unpaid electricity bills in Soweto alone, out of a total arrears bill of about R40bn.

President Cyril Ramaphosa has issued a public letter calling for an end to the culture of non-payment that worked so well in bringing an end to apartheid, but ‘has no place in present-day SA. If public utilities like Eskom are to survive, then all users need to pay for the services they receive'.

By some estimates, just 10% of residents are paying for electricity in Soweto, notes the Moneyweb report. However, the notion that Soweto residents are willfully delinquent is challenged by LLHRF president King Sibiya.

Our main objective in bringing this court action is to stop Soweto sinking deeper into lawlessness. We have held numerous forums in Soweto and have heard complaints from residents that Eskom is disconnecting residents without just cause. Some residents who are dutifully paying their electricity bills have been disconnected, and others who are entitled to free or subsidised electricity are also being disconnected. Our request to the court is very simple: establish a tribunal to hear the individual merits of each complaint before deciding to disconnect power from people who are often living in desperate circumstances.’

Full Moneyweb report