Pretoria - A deceased estate which Eskom owed about R116 000 in overpaid electricity accounts has applied for the winding- up of the power utility for failing to cough up.
The executor of the estate of Christopher Kingsley turned to the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, after Eskom simply did not pay the money back. It asked for the winding up of Eskom in terms of the Companies Act.
Acting Judge Stefan Maritz was told that Eskom, in spite of numerous demands for payment, failed to do so. According to the executor, Eskom is thus “deemed unable to pay its debts”.
The court was told that Kingsley held two electricity accounts with Eskom. On the one he had a credit balance of slightly more than R10 400 and on the other a credit balance of about R106 000.
In July 2020, the executor instructed an attorney to recover the outstanding money from Eskom on behalf of Kingsley’s estate.
A new account had meanwhile been opened in the name of the new owner of Kingsley’s property. Eskom acknowledged the request for a refund and said a terminated credit refund status was being logged with its relevant department. Eskom undertook to resolve the issue within six to eight weeks.
By February the next year Eskom had still not refunded the estate, and another letter of demand was sent. This time Eskom asked for a bank-stamped letter confirming the banking details of the estate. Again it said the matter would be resolved soon.
The utility failed to act, and the lawyers acting for the estate subsequently threatened legal action. Eskom still remained mum and the estate turned to court to ask for a provisional winding-up order of Eskom.
Eskom advanced several technical points in law, but Judge Maritz rejected these. The applicant relied on two tax invoices issued by Eskom in which it was reflected that it owed the estate about R116 000.
The electricity giant also did not deny that the estate asked for a refund for the overpaid accounts. It said that it had never authorised a refund, and argued the applicant had failed to prove that it was the deceased himself who made the payments to Eskom, resulting in the credit balances.
Judge Maritz said that Eskom missed the point, as when the tax invoices were issued with a credit balance, the power utility had accepted that there were overpayments and that it was indebted to the deceased.
Eskom’s argument that no payment was due as it had not yet concluded its internal verification processes, was also rejected by the court.
“On Eskom’s own version, it undertook to resolve the refund within six to eight weeks. It failed to do so,” the judge said.
Judge Maritz added that Eskom had failed to place any evidence before the court that it was able to pay its debts.
“This issue was simply not addressed at all. This is regrettable, especially from a state-owned company.”
In its argument, Eskom told the court: “It is a multibillion-rand enterprise, which owns power stations in various parts of the country, which are valued at billions of rand.”
It said merely refusing to pay an alleged debt of R116 000 was hardly indicative that Eskom was not able to pay its debts.
Judge Maritz commented in this regard that there were “damning reports in the public sphere regarding Eskom’s inability to pay its debts”.
The judge said at this stage Eskom should be given a chance to pay the debt by next month. If it does not do so, the applicant can return to court.
Judge Maritz said in spite of the shortcoming in Eskom’s case, a winding-up order at this stage would not only affect the entity and its employees, but also the public at large.