Court deals Soweto residents a blow by striking electricity case off the roll
Johannesburg - Soweto residents, who hauled Eskom to court demanding they be reconnected to the energy grid, suffered a blow in the Joburg High Court.
The 250 residents had their electricity supply disconnected six months ago for failure to pay, and they have been in the dark ever since.
On Tuesday, the residents, with the help of Lungelo Lethu Human Rights Foundation (LLHRF), hauled Eskom and the City of Johannesburg to the high court on an urgent basis so they could be reconnected.
After waiting for more than five hours for their case to be heard, the court struck their case off the roll in less than 10 minutes.
The residents are being represented by human rights activist and the president of LLHRF, King Sibiya, who is not a lawyer. The community argues that they need to be reconnected and then get into negotiations with residents over the next 18 to 24 months.
In sending back the community to the drawing board, Acting Judge Marcus Senyatsi said: “I have great difficulty with the papers. Soweto is such a vast community, so why are there no people cited in these papers? They have to be cited because the Soweto community is not an entity. This is vaguely written and it is more of a petition than an application to the court.
“I would love for this matter to be heard before the court but there are no names, supporting affidavits and no meter numbers. What relationship do they have with the City of Joburg and Eskom? Are they in arrears?
“From the papers, we don’t know if the people here ever had electricity from Eskom or the City of Johannesburg. How is this an urgent matter if this has been going on for six months?”
He ruled that the matter was not urgent and their application be rewritten to include missing information.
Judge Senyatsi said he didn’t understand why Legal Aid South Africa or organisations like Lawyers for Human Rights couldn’t assist Sibiya with the application. “Our people can’t be excluded from the judicial system because they are indigent,” the judge said. Sibiya said: “I have tried all of them but no one was willing to help. I even tried the Wits Law Clinic.”
Advocate Sydwell Shangisa, on behalf of Eskom, told the court it was hard for him and his team to make sense of Sibiya’s papers.
“They must seek legal advice so that the matter can be listened to. We had difficulty responding to some of the allegations.”
The City of Johannesburg, which has also been cited in the papers, said they were confused why they were party to the matter.
“The City of Joburg has been brought to court but we don’t supply electricity to the area. We should not be before the court,” said legal representative Samantha Jackson.
Residents like Judith Ngwenya and her family have not had electricity since May, after an electricity box caught fire in Klipspruit.
“When we called Eskom to come and fix the box, they said they wouldn’t do that because we have not been paying for electricity. If we want electricity, we need to ask neighbours, who will charge us R5 a day,” she said.
For cooking, the family uses a primus stove but the biggest hurdle is Ngwenya’s diabetes insulin injections that have to be stored in a fridge. “I just put them on the cold floor and hope they will be fine,” she said.
Sibiya said the community will have a meeting over the weekend to discuss the way forward.