The Pietermaritzburg High Court has stopped plans by Eskom to cut power to Newcastle in northern KZN over R100m in unpaid electricity debts. Reuters African News Agency (ANA)

Durban - The Pietermaritzburg High Court has stopped plans by Eskom to cut power to Newcastle in northern KZN over R100m in unpaid electricity debts.

Judge Pieter Bezuidenhout handed down judgment on Tuesday which put a halt on the power utility implementing daily power cuts to residents and businesses of Newcastle.

This after the KZN Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs department launched an urgent application in the high court to stop the move.

Advocate Adrian Rall, acting for the MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, in an application brought by the Newcastle Municipality and Cogta argued that cutting off electricity in Newcastle will result in a socio-economic “catastrophe”.

Judge Bezuidenhout agreed and according to the Newcastle Advertiser said a day before handing down judgment said: “What do we do to ensure that an economy that is already dragging on its knees, doesn’t collapse totally?”

On Tuesday, KZN MEC for Cogta, Sipho Hlomuka welcomed the judgment.

"Today's judgment is a welcome relief to the residents and businesses of Newcastle as well as Cogta which had joined the municipality's bid to prevent the electricity switch-off. At the same time, the judgment does not exempt Newcastle from settling its debt with Eskom which is also good news for the power utility" said Hlomuka.

KZN Cogta has actively supported the efforts of Newcastle municipality to force Eskom to accept its payment plan rather than pull the plug on all consumers and businesses within its jurisdiction. The payment plan has been drafted with Cogta's assistance and it is deemed affordable by the department given the municipality's financial obligations.

"It was absolutely crucial that the power supply to Newcastle should remain uninterrupted as the opposite would have been devastating for the local economy and prospects for future investment. We also believe that the judgment which forces Newcastle to pay up is good for the municipality because it imposes a degree of financial responsibility," said Hlomuka.

 KZN Cogta is assisting all municipalities in the province where there is a substantial debt owed to Eskom to prepare realistic payment plans and settle their obligations. At the same time, the department is conducting a public awareness campaign which appeals to the general public to settle their utility bills to ensure that Eskom is able to continue to power the country and its economy, the department said in a statement.

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