Johannesburg-based legal firm, De Beer Attorneys, is preparing to take legal action against Eskom in respect of the preventable losses suffered by businesses and individuals as a result of load shedding.
The firm said that Eskom as a State Owned Entity (SOE) has a legal obligation to provide electricity to the people of South Africa.
“Legally, if the business in question had a specific contract with Eskom regarding the provision of electricity, then Eskom’s negligent conduct which resulted in the causing of the power supply failure, will form the basis of our claim,” it said.
“If the claim based on delict, then we will again need to prove that Eskom’s conduct was wrongful and/or negligent.
“Here, we can expect that Eskom’s position would no doubt be that load shedding, per se, is neither wrongful for negligent – in so far as it is a rational, responsible response to the electricity crisis, ensuring that SA’s electricity grid will not collapse, which would be an unmitigated disaster.”
However, it can be argued that the electricity crisis itself is something which is of Eskom’s own making – due to its negligence in maintaining the electricity infrastructure, the firm said.
“As such, they should still be held accountable for the losses suffered. Each case would no doubt have to be evaluated on its own merits.”
Worse than before
Eskom has previously faced legal claims for damages when it instituted load shedding in 2008 and 2015.
However, the majority of these claims were unsuccessful due to a number of factors – including a reluctance by the courts to hold Eskom liable for damages.
Eskom suspended load shedding on Sunday 24 March following a period of more than 10 days of continuous outages – the worst in history as the power utility introduce stage 4 load shedding for the first time.
Eskom attributed the return of power to a recovery in plant performance and an increase in diesel and water reserves.
Imports from Mozambique’s Cahora Bassa plant also increased to 850MW, with the restoration of feed from one of the two lines after the area was hit by a cyclone.
However, experts have warned that load shedding could last for at least several months as the power provider deals with ageing infrastructure and winter.