The South Gauteng High Court in Johannesburg has dismissed an urgent application by the Kensington Community Association, which sought to stop Egoli Gas from terminating its supply of piped natural gas to residents in the Joburg East area.
The court dismissed the case with costs in favour of the gas company after it found that the case lacked merit.
This effectively gives Egoli Gas licence to cut the natural piped gas supply to Joburg East communities including Kensington, Bezuidenhout Valley, Bertrams, Malvern, Doornfontein, Judith’s Paarl and De Wetshoff.
The Kensington Community Association who were also slapped with a cost order, in a statement through their gas task team, said this was a “setback”, but vowed “this is not the end”.
“We are all sad, but we can't give up now. We will get together to strategise how we take things forward.
“We did our very best with what we had. History will record the 31st January 2024.
“Our voice is not silenced… We are not done yet,” said Brett Anderson, one of the members of the KCA.
Egoli Gas spokesperson Sewela Makgolane said the court found the urgent application by KCA lacked merit due to factual and legal reasons and dismissed it with costs.
She said the court ruling in Egoli’s favour, demonstrated that the company’s decision to discontinue the supply of piped natural gas to the affected areas was commercially rational and legally permissible.
Egoli Gas said the court also found the KCA failed to sufficiently substantiate the significance of their case as only 3% of residents supported them..
“As a result, Egoli Gas is legally authorised to proceed with the termination of gas supply after January 31, 2024,” said Makgolane.
She said Egoli Gas continued to encourage customers who have not yet completed their conversions, to do so ahead of the termination on date.
“It has been encouraging for us as a company to receive confirmation from the court on our efforts to assist affected residents, notwithstanding having no legal obligation to do so.
“Out of approximately 467 affected customers, 393 have accepted Egoli’s offer to convert to LPG to date. In many instances, customers were able to convert to LPG at no cost as a result of Egoli’s ex gratia payments.”
In December, IOL reported how the company was now offering R8,000 cash from its initial R3,000 offer, as well as biscuits and vouchers, as well as reduced rates to convert to LPG gas amid the urgent court application at the time.
“While the company recognises the impact of the termination decision on affected customers, we assure all stakeholders of Egoli that this decision was made after careful consideration, but most importantly, that the company acted responsibly. We remain steadfast in our dedication to supplying natural piped gas safely and efficiently in the communities we operate,” said Makgolane.
The KCA Gas Task Team said “we always knew this case would not end at the High Court”, hinting at an appeal.
“There are some positive outcomes from the hearing despite the adverse judgment.
“Egoli had attempted to question the KCA's standing in this matter, and the judge found that we had standing.
“More particularly, the judge found that Section 22 of the Gas Act applied to Egoli's customers.
“For some reason the Judge seemed to regard Kensington as a wealthy suburb and even thought that KCA is some sort of larney association, and saddled us with legal costs.
“Where we tripped up was that we were not able to make the case for discrimination, and the Judge failed by not acknowledging that the burden of responsibility lay on the shoulders of Egoli Gas to show that the termination of services was for ‘objectively justifiable and identifiable differences’, brace yourself for Egoli Gas trumpeting the win. It is expected.
“But the battle is far from over. The consequences of a private company contracted to supply a public service and then not held to the same standards as a public entity, would be dire at best.
“We have quite a number of grounds to appeal, and we shall be ensuring that we add to our legal team,” said the task team.