Treasonous Eskom

2019-03-27 06:01

WHILE treason is broadly defined as “the crime of betraying one’s country”, what constitutes treason differs from country to country.

In South Africa, treason is a common law offence defined as “any conduct unlawfully committed by a person owing allegiance to a state with the intention of; overthrowing the government of the republic; coercing the government by violence into any action or inaction; violating, threatening or endangering the existence, independence or security of the republic; changing the constitutional structure of the republic”.

To me, the alleged unlawful activities involving Eskom, as heard by the Zondo Commission of Inquiry into state capture, fall under the definition of “violating, threatening or endangering the existence, independence or security of the republic” or “changing the constitutional structure of the republic”.

The Constitution provides the legal foundation for the republic, setting out the rights and duties of citizens and defining the structure of the government. The Bill of Rights, contained in chapter two of the Constitution, is the cornerstone of democracy in South Africa. It enshrines the rights of all people in SA and affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom.

There is no right to electricity in the Constitution, although it has become an integral part of life. That does not, however, mean that the alleged unlawful activities involving Eskom have not violated the Constitution. In my opinion, load shedding unlawfully limits several constitutional rights.


Everyone has the right to life and health-care services. Electricity is essential for public health facilities. An unstable supply of electricity can be fatal for those undergoing emergency treatment and those in intensive care units. Furthermore, organs and medication that need to be refrigerated can spoil.


Everyone has the right to freedom and security of person, which includes the right to be free from violence from either public or private sources. Anti-crime activist and Crime Watch host Yusuf Abramjee said: “There is an increase in criminal activity across the country whenever load shedding strikes.”


Everyone has the right to freedom of movement. Thousands of people rely on Prasa to take them home or to work. Many get to their workplaces late and face the possibility of losing their jobs. Load shedding also affects traffic lights, resulting in increased traffic congestion.


Everyone has the right to freedom of expression, which includes freedom to receive and send information. Not only does load shedding affect cellphone signals, it will undoubtably increase costs as cellphone operators spend millions on emergency power supplies for cellular towers across SA.


Everyone has the right to an environment that is not harmful to their health. The increasing use of generators at homes and offices, which is not regulated, is resulting in additional pollution.


Everyone has the right to access to sufficient water. Pumps, which transport water from dams to the municipalities, run on electricity. During certain stages of load shedding, reservoir stations start emptying, resulting in water shortages.


Everyone has the right to basic and further education, which the state, through reasonable measures, must make progressively available. Dr Felicity Coughlan of the Independent Institute of Education said: “Modern education depends on power — from the simple provision of adequate lighting in lecture rooms ... to the power to drive digital projectors and Internet connectivity.”

Once the commission has come to an end, and Judge Zondo has made his findings public, indictments should follow. Will there be enough political will to charge the people concerned with treason, as opposed to the “lesser crime” of corruption?

• Cheri Rudd is a human rights lawyer at Rudd Attorneys.


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