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Court date set for parties, unions to challenge Eskom’s load shedding

A candle burns as load shedding continues. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

A candle burns as load shedding continues. Picture: Jacques Naude/African News Agency (ANA)

Published Feb 14, 2023


Pretoria - A new court date has been set to hear an application by political, labour and community organisations to stop Eskom continuing with load shedding.

The court application – by the National Union of Metalworkers of SA (Numsa); the United Democratic Movement (UDM), the Health and Allied Workers Indaba Trade Union (Haitu); Build One SA (Bosa), the IFP; Saftu and Democracy in Action – will now be heard in the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, on March 20-24.

The case was initially set down for February 28.

Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said the case is divided into two parts, Part A for interim relief; and Part B for final relief.

In Part A, the applicants submitted that the manner in which the government has responded to the crisis of load shedding is unconstitutional and breaches several constitutional rights.

They argue that load shedding has become a pressing human rights concern. The government’s response has undermined the fundamental rights of citizens.

“Evidence has been produced as to the impact of load shedding on hospitals, schools, small and medium businesses, telecommunication services and a range of other critical sectors of the economy, which cannot function during load shedding.

“The applicants further argue that bearing in mind that load shedding is not an inevitable fact of history, like Covid-19, but has been directly caused by deliberate state action, negligence of the state, and general disregard for the obligations of the state under the Constitution, there is an obligation on the state to alleviate the human suffering, which has been caused by load shedding,” Hlubi-Majola said.

The relief sought by the applicants, including nurses, doctors and small businesses, was in the first instance that the government was under a duty to prevent the humanitarian catastrophe, which had been directly caused by load shedding, she said.

“Load shedding impacts the poor, the unemployed and black people in less affluent areas, in ways that cannot be prevented except by governmental support and intervention.

“To prevent the human cost of load shedding, which the government has ignored, the applicants ask for compliance with the Constitution, which requires that in times of hardship, the needs of the poor and marginalised must be prioritised.

“Unfortunately, the practical reality shows that the government has no strategy to shield the poor against load shedding, or to alleviate the suffering which has been caused by load shedding,” she said.

Hlubi-Majola said the applicants were asking for a general exemption in specific sectors of the economy and social services: health, education, police stations, courts, small and medium enterprises, agriculture and food production and telecommunication services.

“The manner in which this must be done will be left to the government, but it is worth noting that the government has not hesitated to declare certain areas in which its own ministers live as ‘load shedding free zones’. The applicants point out that if this is possible for ministers, it must be possible for the poor.

“In Part B, the applicants shall seek an order holding the president, as head of the national executive, legally responsible for the human cost of load shedding. The president’s primary responsibility is to give effect to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. While there has been much talking in government, the reality has been that load shedding has escalated, rather than decreased.

“Now the country faces the real prospect of a total blackout, as evidenced by the government’s own declaration of a state of national disaster.

“The applicants shall seek an order declaring that the president and his government have failed to respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights of citizens in the manner in which they have responded to the crisis of load shedding, which the government is responsible for in the first place,” Hlubi-Majola said.

Pretoria News