Thuli orders Eskom to switch power on again
PUBLIC Protector Thuli Madonsela has delivered a damning report against Eskom, saying its conduct when it wrongfully cut the electricity supply to a Khayelitsha family for five months constituted maladministration and abuse of power.
Eskom’s conduct fell short of the professionalism principles outlined in section 195 of the constitution, said Madonsela.
Simone Khumalo and her family had been up in arms with the parastatal since February 29 after their electricity supply was disconnected without warning. They had to rely on neighbours for electricity and use paraffin or gas stoves.
They approached Madonsela’s office to probe maladministration allegations by Eskom’s provincial unit for improperly imposing a tampering and reconnection fee of R12 000 against them.
Madonsela also probed how Eskom handled the matter involving a faulty prepaid meter and use of unpaid electricity.
Khumalo’s son Shorn filed the complaint on behalf of his 49-year-old mother, who was a Golden Arrow Bus Service general worker.
According to Madonsela’s report, Khumalo had reported to Eskom that her prepaid meter box was faulty more than two years before her power was disconnected and she was held accountable for the faulty meter. She was first issued with a tampering notice on July 5, 2013 and paid a fee of R2 120 that day.
“While Eskom has a legal authority to impose (a) fine for tampering and it may add responsibility to prevent and discourage such criminal action, which leeches on members of the public who duly pay for their electricity, it failed to exercise such power in line with the principles of administrative justice as envisaged in the constitution,” Madonsela said in her report.
She said Eskom’s defence relying on the inspection of the box and the purchase history to determine tampering was invalid, as the suspected tampering did not negate the need for fair process to be followed to cut the electricity supply.
“I am accordingly unable to arrive at a conclusion other than that Eskom failed to properly exercise its power, and if I may add, responsibility to disconnect illicit or unauthorised consumption of electricity by failing to follow due process,” she said.
While Madonsela’s remedial action said Eskom’s provincial manager should ensure Khumalo’s power supply was reconnected within a day of receiving her report, Shorn said yesterday this did not happen.
Eskom was approached for comment but had not responded by deadline.