The High Court in Pretoria has reserved judgment on the urgent application by civil rights organization AfriForum to stop national power utility Eskom from disconnecting electricity supplies to several municipalities, mainly in Free State Province, for failing to pay their bills.

Judge Hans Fabricius Wednesday questioned the urgency of the application before allowing AfriForum to present its case. However, Eskom, which opposed the application, has agreed to postpone the electricity cuts to the affected municipalities until next week.

The court will make its ruling Thursday following the judge's decision to allow the civil organization's legal team to make a presentation before the court. The urgent application was immediately opposed by the power utility's legal team.

Eskom acting Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Matshela Koko, has described AfriForum's urgent application as another cheap political game by the organization. Koko said it was also disappointing to hear AfriForum accusing Eskom of terminating contracts with defaulting municipalities and customers.

While still awaiting the court verdict, Koko commended Eskom's legal team for a job well done. The acting CEO said they came to court with a single mandate of opposing AfriForum's court application and winning.

We came here to fight to win. We were not worried. The part that disappoints me is the arguments put forward by AfriForum. They come to court to put a political fight in the court," he added.

"Judge Hans Fabricius was quite clear and I like his commentary that courts are not governments. And it should not happen that we bring political fights in courts. AfriForum has a case that (South Africa's ruling political party) the African National Congress (ANC) is mismanaging the municipalities and therefore the rate-payers should not pay. They have the right to make that argument, but it should not impact our business."

Koko also instructed his legal team to agree on a postponement of the cuts to several municipalities in the Free State after being asked to do so by Judge Fabricius.

Koko said the concession made by Eskom to postpone the cuts until next Tuesday is a sign of goodwill. I grew up in a house without electricity for years. I know what it means not to have electricity. Electricity is life. Electricity is oxygen. If I can do anything and everything to give our people a second chance so that they are able to make arrangements with us, so that we can normalise the situation, so that everybody has power, I will do it. I will use every single opportunity that is available to do I will do it. So it was a very easy concession."

AfriForum spokesperson Marcus Pawson said their legal team had managed to make a strong statement before the court. We are hopeful and we will wait until the judgment tomorrow morning. We hope that the judge has listened to the communities who are being deprived of those rights. We are hopeful that we will have a positive judgment from the judge himself tomorrow."

Eskom has urged the affected municipalities in the Free State, North West and Northern Cape provinces to take advantage of the concessions and make arrangements for payment with the power utility.

The court heard that the national electricity debt of municipalities in the country had increased from 6.0 billion Rand to more than 10 billion Rand (about 728 million US dollars) in the past fiscal years.


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