While political parties, trade unions and others have welcomed a ruling by the Pretoria High Court that loadshedding is unconstitutional, experts are wary. They fear its implementation may reduce the effectiveness of power cuts.
On Friday, the court ruled that loadshedding was unconstitutional. It gave Eskom and electricity minister Kgosientsho Ramokgopa until the end of January 2024 to exempt key facilities like schools, hospitals and police stations.
The United Democratic Movement (UDM), ActionSA, Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP), the South African Federation of Trade Unions (SAFTU) and others earlier approached the court over rolling power cuts which peaked in 2023.
In its judgement, the court found that loadshedding infringed on “the right to human dignity … the right to life … the right to freedom and security … the right to an environment that is not harmful to health and wellbeing … the right of access to healthcare services … the right to access of sufficient food and water … and the right to basic education”.
The parties that took the matter to court welcomed the ruling, hailing it as a victory. Energy experts, however, feared it might be impractical to implement the order to exempt facilities.
Describing the judgement as a “victory” for both “ActionSA and the South African people”, the party’s Michael Beaumont said: “It helps to ensure that communities across South Africa who have been negatively affected by police stations’ telephone lines not working due to load shedding, or hospitals failing to take care of sick patients when the lights go off, can now be assured that they get the basic services guaranteed by our constitution”.
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) called for a greater emphasis on traditional coal-fired power generation to ensure sufficient energy to meet demand.
Said the union’s Phakamile Hlubi-Majola: “The latest court decision means that government has no choice but to take decisive action to ensure they uphold the court order … They must invest in coal and in the maintenance of coal-fired power stations. They have to restart all the power stations which have been mothballed in order to end load shedding today.”
However, energy specialist Hilton Trollip told Eyewitness News implementing the order might undermine the purpose of loadshedding in the first place.
“Some of them are on separate circuits but many of them are on circuits which are also connected to normal houses and shopping centres. It would mean load shedding wouldn’t work effectively.”