Women activist Group wins fight for free basic electricity

Thursday was a victorious day for the Electricity Action Group (EAG), who won their six year fight advocating for free electricity to be distributed into poverty stricken households after a settlement was reached by the Msunduzi Municipality and Eskom at the Pietermaritzburg High Court.
The EAG consists of a group of elderly women from different communities around Pietermaritzburg who called the Msunduzi Municipality and Eskom into question for their failure to provide basic free electricity to poor families in poverty stricken communities in Pietermaritzburg.
Represented by the Legal Resources Centre (LRC), the EAG approached the Pietermaritzburg High Court in an attempt to compel the Msunduzi Municiplaity to adhere to the previously implemented policy of providing basic free electricity to poor communities.
On arrival at the court last Thursday, the Msunduzi Municipality and Eskom said that they wanted to negotiate a settlement. After a few hours of negotiations, a settlement was reached stating that all poverty stricken households in the municipality’s jurisdiction will receive free basic electricity in the form of credit meters that will be installed in households.
Both service providers, Eskom and Msunduzi Municipality are responsible for distributing the allocated amount of free basic electricity to all the respective households that fall under the areas they provide electricity to.
They have been given until October 31st 2016 to repair or replace all the applicants’ prepaid meters. By 31 October, the Msunduzi Municipality is ordered to report to the LRC and provide an update on their progression of enforcing the court order.
The introduction of the ‘Free Basic Electricity Policy’ by National Government in 2003 was enabled to assist the poorest families in accessing electricity. For the 2014/5 year, the Msunduzi Municipality received R373 million from National Treasury to pay for free basic services which includes electricity. However, only R1 776 902 was spent on electricity.
This case was the first public interest case that fought for citizens’ rights to be heard out in court, following the six year battle.
The LRC and EAG are ecstatic over the outcome of the matter and the LRC will continue to monitor that the electricity is rightfully distributed amongst the communities in compliance with the court order.

Jade le Roux

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