Madonsela scolds Eskom

Shorn Khumalo is threatening to sue Eskom.

The Khumalos of Bongweni in Khayelitsha say they feel vindicated after public protector Thuli Madonsela ruled in their favour, finding Eskom guilty of having unfairly disconnected their power almost five months ago.

The family’s electricity supply was disconnected on Monday February 29 after they were accused of tampering with their meter box.

Without electricity since then, the family have had to rely on neighbours when they needed power, and cook on gas stoves.

In a report delivered on Friday July 29, the office of the public protector found that Eskom had wrongfully disconnected the Khumalos’ electricity supply and imposed a tampering and reconnection fee of R12 000.

Eskom has been ordered to restore the electricity supply to the family’s home and compensate them for expenses incurred due to the disconnection, within two weeks but that deadline came and went last Friday and the family still has no electricity.

Shorn Khumalo who lodged the complaint with the public protector on behalf of his mother, Simone, in March, lashed out at Eskom, accusing it of undermining black people and not dealing with the matter in a dignified way.

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“They need to compensate my family for the five months we stayed without electricity. That alone is not enough, there is trauma involved, defamation of character, food we wasted money on (junk food) and many other things. I want to show them that a poor child from Khayelitsha can even know his or her rights. Reconnecting after five months is nothing. This is also about human rights. I am going to advocate for black people,” he said.

His war against Eskom, however, was far from over, he said, adding that he planned to take the matter to the Constitutional Court because he believed it was human rights issue.

“I will sue Eskom for what they did to us. We want a public apology, but obviously we not only want that. They need to pay. Maybe they will stop taking people for granted. I know they have never been challenged. All they know is to charge people even if they are not guilty,” he said.

When Vukani visited the family their electricity supply had still not been restored, despite Ms Madonsela’s ruling having been made two weeks before.

Among the public protector’s findings in the report are that, before disconnecting the family’s electricity supply, Eskom had not issued a notice of intention to disconnect, nor had it given reasons for such intended action or give Ms Khumalo an opportunity to respond to its intended action, which Eskom knew would affect Ms Khumalo adversely by depriving her of an opportunity to buy and use pre-paid electricity.

The public protector also found that Eskom’s failure to provide Ms Khumalo with such an opportunity to speak in her own defence had been irrational, unreasonable and unfair.

It was also noted that the disconnection of the family’s electricity supply had been at odds with the principles of administration in section 195 of the constitution requiring accountability and transparency among others.

When Vukani contacted Eskom for its response to the ruling, spokesperson Jolene Henn said Eskom would respond after it had finished studying the ruling.