Eskom taken to court

2015-09-09 11:45

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THE Msunduzi Municipality is taking on Eskom in the high court over a R1,3 million bill that it ­maintains is incorrect.

The municipality said Eskom had demanded last month that it pay the account or face disconnection of the electricity supply to the Willowfountain pump station. The facility supplies water to residents in the Willowfountain area, and if the electricity supply was cut off, the residents would not have water, ­according to papers before the high court.

The municipality said this would be a breach of its constitutional obligations in an area where many indigent and low-income residents live. The dispute was yesterday adjourned until November 4, and dates set for Eskom to file its opposing papers. Pending the finalisation of the dispute, the court extended an interim order restraining Eskom from disconnecting the electricity supply to the pump station.

Brendan Sivaparsad, Msunduzi Municipality’s process manager for water and sanitation, said the municipality has historically conducted its Eskom account “properly” and made payment of all amounts due, to the extent that in March this year the municipality had a credit balance with Eskom of R73 166,66.

Msunduzi’s usual monthly payments in respect of the pump station averaged around R2 000 per month, according to the papers.

Sivaparsad said a dispute arose in June this year after Eskom raised invoices from May, making ­reference to “re-billed adjustments”, the correctness of which are disputed by Msunduzi.

In the latest (June) account, Eskom’s invoice ­reflected a balance carried forward of R1 248 991,32, plus further billing charges for use of electricity ­between May 26 and June 26, amounting to R103 740,53.

Msunduzi contends that it was impossible for so much electricity to have been consumed over that period of time and disputes it is liable.

Sivaparsad said Msunduzi’s attorneys had written to Eskom, asking the power utility to explain the “drastic variations” in the amounts claimed, and met with Eskom’s Zakhele Mbambo in July.

Mbambo allegedly told the lawyers that the reason for the substantial re-billing charges was that Eskom employees had misread the meter installed at the pump station by leaving out one of the six digits, said Sivaparsad.

An “actual reading” was subsequently done in June 2015 and the charges adjusted.

Sivaparsad said while Eskom seemed to accept there was a valid dispute, it adopted the attitude that Msunduzi was in default and that it was entitled to terminate the electricity supply to the pump station.

On August 6, the municipality received an e-mail from Eskom, stating that the electricity supply would be disconnected unless the bill was paid by the next day. This left Msunduzi with no option but to apply for an urgent interdict.

Sivaparsad said Msunduzi Municipality needs an opportunity to verify the charges, as it maintains that they are incorrect. Msunduzi alleges that it is ­impossible to take readings at the pump station ­because of the poor state of the meter.

Sivaparsad said the charges are out of proportion with the amounts historically paid by Msunduzi, the highest being R2 008.

“The charges are simply not possible and are likely the product of incorrect readings on the part of the respondent [Eskom],” he said.

“The applicant [Msunduzi] will not use public funds to pay the respondent [Eskom] amounts which it has not proved it is entitled to,” he said.

Sivaparsad added that the station would grind to a halt if the electricity was cut off, and it would be a “substantial process” to restart the facility. In the meantime, the residents would have no water

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  eskom  |  court

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