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Durban - Newcastle residents can breathe a sigh of relief after the municipality was yesterday granted an urgent interim interdict to prevent Eskom from implementing daily power cuts in the town.

The municipality went to court after Eskom issued a final notice two weeks ago which stated that if it failed to pay more than R100million in debt, it would be subjected to daily power cuts.

In his judgment, Judge Piet Bezuidenhout said that while there was no dispute that the money was owed to Eskom, power cuts would have a dire impact on the town’s residents and businesses.

“If the electricity supply is disconnected or interrupted at crucial hours, it would have a catastrophic effect, not only on all the residents and businesses, but on the whole economy of the town,” said Judge Bezuidenhout.

He added that disconnecting the electricity would also not assist Eskom to recover the money.

He said disconnections would result in business failure and job losses in an already struggling economy in a country with high rates of unemployment.

Judge Bezuidenhout also said Eskom would be less prejudiced if the power stayed on, in contrast to the municipality and the community, which would be severely affected by disconnections.

He said Eskom’s submission that the municipality should have sufficient funds to pay it because it generated R200m a year profit from the sale of electricity to consumers, was incorrect.

“This fails to take into account the operating expenses of maintaining the electrical supply network, the upkeep thereof and breakages that may occur, as well as salaries,” he said.

The court ruled that pending the finalisation of the application, the municipality must make a minimum monthly payment to Eskom of R30m by no later than the 15th day of each month starting next week.

Newcastle mayor Ntuthuko Mhlaba said yesterday: “I’ll ensure that our chief financial officer makes payment on the 15th of every month. We now have a concrete agreement in place. We’ll not disappoint the people of Newcastle.”

Joyce Zingoni, KZN spokesperson for Eskom, said the power utility was concerned about the financial implications of the judgment.

“The revenue we collect is critical in producing the product, servicing the customers and strengthening the network for future economic growth of the province,’ she said.

The KZN MEC of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Sipho Hlomuka, said the judgment would bring relief to residents.

The Mercury