Residents of the Newcastle municipality can breath easy, at least for now. The Pietermartizberg High Court yesterday ruled against Eskom’s decision to shut down the electricity supply to the municipality. This due to Newcastle owing Eskom R200m in accumulated debt, which spans a two year period. In delivering his final decision on the matter, Judge Piet Bezuidenhout mentioned that the small town relies on the municipality to power their households and business in the area. If this supply of electricity is suddenly disconnected, it would most definitely have dire consequences for residents in and around the town as well as businesses.
Yet, not only that, it would also have major impacts for the economy, as Newcastle is predominately a mining town and with the current climate of high unemployment, we can definitely not afford any more job losses. To further the point he was making, Judge Piet Bezuidenhout also made mention that cutting the electricity supply to the Newcastle municipality would be counter-productive. It would not aid Eskom or bring it any closer to recouping any of the funds that is owed.
The urgent application was brought to court last week by the municipality and provincial Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs in a bid to stop Eskom from disrupting the town’s electricity supply. However, the municipality was not let off the hook easily. They have been ordered by the High Court and it’s Judge, to enter into a payment plan. The payment plan entails the municipality committing to a monthly payment to Eskom, in the sum of R30 mllion as of the end of this month.
Cooperative Governance MEC Sipho Hlomuka, went on to say that although the judgement comes as a great relief to the community, it does not exempt the municipality from paying up it’s debt, saying that Newcastle municipality should show a degree of responsibility by committing to it’s financial obligations. The judgement handed down should ensure that this financial responsibility is imposed, or so we hope.