Prepaids win court battle

2016-07-29 11:52
The red-brick road around the City Hall.

The red-brick road around the City Hall. (Jonathan Burton)

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Pietermaritzburg - ALL indigent households in Msunduzi now qualify for free basic electricity, including residents with prepaid meters, in terms of an agreement reached at the city’s high court on Thursday.

This after the Electricity Action Group (EAG) and a group of poor women brought a “public interest” case against the municipality, Eskom Holdings, the National Energy Regulator of SA, the minister of Energy and director-general of the Department of Energy. Their aim was to clarify the rights of all indigent citizens to access free basic electricity in Msunduzi.

A settlement agreement postponed the case for an indefinite period for authorities to implement a policy in terms of which all indigent households in Msunduzi Municipality, including those using prepaid meters, now qualify for free basic electricity.

The court order stated that Msunduzi Local Municipality records that “indigent households in Msunduzi Municipality using prepaid electricity meters qualify for free basic electricity in terms of the Msunduzi Local Municipality Indigent Policy, read with the Department of Minerals and Energy Basic Services Support Tariff (Free Basic Electricity) policy, and are not excluded by virtue of using prepaid meters”.

Where Eskom is the service provider under Msunduzi’s jurisdiction the same applies. The court order provides that Msunduzi will manage the applications by people with prepaid meters for indigent status through its usual administration procedures. Msunduzi also agreed to take steps by October 31 to assess and when necessary to repair or replace prepaid electricity meters that were dysfunctional or were removed and replaced with the incorrect homeowner’s meter.

The Electricity Action Group had complained in court papers that people using prepaid electricity were being discriminated against because they were not able to access the free basic electricity granted to people using credit meters.

Kidwee Mofokeng (70) of Imbali, chairperson of the EAG founded in 2010, said in her affidavit that the EAG had made numerous unsuccessful attempts to engage the municipality in a bid to provide free basic electricity for those with prepaid meters. Mofokeng said a poor household on a prepaid meter typically paid R177,39 more than households on a credit meter system using the same amount of electricity.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  electricity

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