TLU SA’s support for Sakeliga’s letter of demand to Eskom to stop the application of illegal load reduction, i.e., targeted power cuts, is based, among other things, on the fact that it is unethical to prevent farmers from producing food.
Sakeliga is working together with TLU SA and Agri North-West to stop the illegal implementation of load reduction in the interest of affected members of the three organisations in North-West and Limpopo. The affected members are mostly farmers and small businesses in rural areas.
Illegal load reduction, which must be distinguished from the national load shedding programme, is a recent practice whereby Eskom completely curbs electricity supply on targeted feeding lines for hours at a time. The reason for this is allegedly to avoid overloading the network in high-density areas, where there are many illegal connections, and causing damage to network infrastructure.
Although the Electricity Regulation Act provides for a form of load reduction, this may never entail a complete cessation of electricity supply, but only an appropriate reduction in load. Users must also be informed reasonably in advance.
“Our support for Sakeliga’s cause is based on four points. First, load reduction in its current format is unconstitutional because it discriminates. It is also unethical because it prevents farmers from producing food. Then it conflicts with the consumer’s contract with Eskom: We pay Eskom, but it does not provide its service. Finally, there is no reward for users who paid despite load shedding during which we continued to pay,” says Mr Mauritz Lombard, TLU SA Manager: Policy Affairs.
“The situation is totally unfair. The impact on a farmer – regardless of what he/she farms with – is substantial and extensive. There is an immediate loss of production if the farmer cannot complete his/her irrigation cycles. Then the farmer also loses the water that was allocated and paid for, because it cannot be used. The cold chain is broken. Food is sensitive to temperature changes. It is not as if farmers are already burdened by huge input costs,” says Mr Bennie van Zyl, TLU SA General Manager.
Mrs Erika Helm, Chairperson: TLU SA Local Government, adds: “Eskom is shifting its responsibility to the consumer. It is the supplier’s (Eskom) duty to ensure that the consumers who use its product are paid for at the agreed rate. In this respect, Eskom neglects its responsibility by making the innocent party pay for its negligence.”
She goes on to say that Eskom once again wants to apply an increase so that the conscientious law-abiding citizens must pay even more for the delivery of the service while the looting of power continues unabated without any intervention or correction.
“This is the greatest degree of exploitation of the country’s residents by Eskom who does not fulfil its duty to its consumers to ensure that its service is properly delivered to paying customers, and in fact they then support the illegal looting of power non-payers.”
Sakeliga demand in its letter that Eskom undertakes in writing within 10 days to complete all proposed audits on identified supply lines within three months. Eskom must also undertake within ten days that illegal electricity cuts will be ceased immediately and that pending the completion of the audits, load reduction will only be implemented in accordance with legal prescripts. Load reduction may never entail an actual cessation of electricity supply.
In the absence of according undertakings from Eskom, Sakeliga will approach the High Court in Pretoria for appropriate remedies.