DA welcomes court judgment against Maluti-a-Phofung municipality for illegal electricity cut-offs

20 Jun 2022 in Press Statements

Note to Editors: Please find attached English and Afrikaans soundbites by Leona Kleynhans MPL.

The Democratic Alliance welcomes the judgment delivered in the Bloemfontein High Court by Judge JP Daffue on 14 June, finding that the correct processes were not followed in terminating the electricity supply to various customers in Maluti-a-Phofung.

The judgment vindicates the DA’s position that customers, even those who are in arrears on their bills, have a right to administrative justice and a right to question the amounts being claimed.

The HIT Residents Association approached the court on two occasions in February on behalf of its members, after which rules nisi were issued ordering the immediate reconnection of these customers. Despite this, the municipality persisted with its actions of summarily cutting off customers in arrears, with some businesses being without electricity for a month.

On 18 May, I met with Municipal Manager Mothamaha, informing him why the actions were illegal in terms of the Constitution, the Electricity Act and the Municipal Systems Act. This warning was ignored, with the Mayor and municipal manager declaring that they were within their rights to cut the electricity.

In his ruling Judge Daffue found: ‘I am satisfied that the applicants proved that they were not afforded any procedural fairness. The customers were not given any opportunity to participate in the decisions that would affect them. They did not receive any of the notices mentioned in the policy. Proper statements and invoices are non-existent. The process adopted failed to enhance the legitimacy of the decisions to disconnect the electricity. Quite the contrary. When the facts are considered, the municipality, led by its accounting officer, did not live up to the constitutional commitment to a responsive and accountable public administration’.

A costs order was made against the municipality. In our opinion this cost should be passed on to the municipal manager who violated the law, and the municipality’s own policy in his misguided actions.

This judgment by Judge Daffue makes very clear that without a proper verifiable billing system, responsive systems to deal with queries, and a system to warn customers of impending drastic actions, simply cutting off the electricity supply is illegal.

The Democratic Alliance has filed questions in the Free State Legislature about this apparent abuse of power which is manifesting itself in various Free State municipalities. Although a municipality must collect revenue due to it, it cannot do so in violation of the constitution and the laws of SA.