The Right to Electricity in South Africa

Authors

DOI:

https://doi.org/10.17159/1727-3781/2022/v25ia11839

Keywords:

Right to electricity, loadshedding, possession, spoliation, South Africa

Abstract

In this note, we examine access to electricity as a right in South African law. We also consider whether deprivations, interferences and disruptions of electricity supply are justifiable limitations of the right. While recent court decisions view access to electricity as a supplement to the Bill of Rights, judicial treatment of electricity as a right precedes the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, 1996. Prior to the adoption of the Constitution, the courts treated access to electricity as a common law right in the context of servitudes and personal and contractual rights. Under the Constitution, the right to access to electricity flows from the constitutional and statutory obligations of Eskom, South Africa's power utility, to provide reliable electricity supply and to ensure just administrative action when taking actions that result in the deprivation of electricity. From a Bill of Rights perspective, the cases show that the right to electricity, albeit not expressed in the text of the Constitution, is a condition for the exercise of other rights, including the rights to human dignity and access to adequate housing, water and health care. We conclude that the deprivation of electricity through loadshedding and other interruptions by Eskom, landlords and body corporates are violations of the right to access to electricity. These violations could be remedied through spoliation and constitutional remedies.

Downloads

Download data is not yet available.

Metrics

Metrics Loading ...

Author Biographies

Felix Dube, North-West University

Postdoctoral fellow: South African Research Chair in Cities, Law and Environmental Sustainability, Faculty of Law, North-West University

Chantelle Moyo, North-West University

PhD Researcher: South African Research Chair in Cities, Law and Environmental Sustainability, Faculty of Law, North-West University

References

Literature

Daniels H Becks Theory and Principles of Pleadings in Civil Actions 6th ed (LexisNexis Durban 2002)

Du Plessis W "Energy" in Du Plessis A (ed) Environmental Law and Local Government in South Africa (Juta Cape Town 2015) 877-905

Du Plessis W "Legal mechanisms for cooperative governance in South Africa: successes and failures" 2008 SAPL 87-110

Du Plessis W Energy Law in South Africa (Kluwer 2020)

Dugard J "Power to the People? A Rights-Based Analysis of South Africa's Electricity Services" in McDonald DA (ed) Electric Capitalism: Recolonising Africa on the Power Grid (Routledge 2012) 264-287

Löfquist L "Is there a Universal Human Right to Electricity?" 2020 Int J Hum Rights 711-723

Muller G et al Silberberg and Schoeman's: The Law of Property 6th ed (LexisNexis Durban 2019)

Nel G, Du Plessis A and Retief F "Key Elements for Municipal Action" in Du Plessis A (ed) Environmental Law and Local Government in South Africa (Juta Cape Town 2015) 41-90

Pienaar GJ "Constitutional Provisions Regarding Juristic Persons" 1998 PER/PELJ 1-38

Steylter N and De Visser J Local Government of South Africa 3rd ed (LexisNexis Durban 2020)

Legislation

Electricity Regulation Act 4 of 2006

Housing Act 107 of 1997

Intergovernmental Relations Framework Act 13 of 2005

Promotion of Administrative Justice Act 3 of 2000

Case law

Afriforum NPC v Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd [2017] 3 All SA 663 (GP)

Afriforum NPC v Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd [2017] JOL 37929 (GP)

Beja v Premier of the Western Cape 2011 10 BCLR 1077 (WCC)

Burger v Van Rooyen 1961 1 SA 159 (O)

Cape Gate (Pty) v Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd [2019] 1 All SA 141 (GJ)

Coetzee v The Premier, Mpumalanga Province Case No: 2799/2017

Corruption Watch NPC v President of the Republic of South Africa; Nxasana v Corruption Watch NPC 2018 10 BCLR 1179 (CC)

Daniels v Scribante 2017 4 SA 341 (CC)

Darries v City of Johannesburg 2009 5 SA 284 (GSJ)

Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd v Masinda 2019 5 SA 386 (SCA)

Eskom v Nikelo [2018] ZAECMHC 48

First Rand Ltd t/a R Merchant Bank v Scholtz 2008 2 SA 503 (SCA)

Froman v Herbmore Timber and Hardware (Pty) Ltd 1984 3 SA 609 (W)

Government of the Republic of South Africa v Grootboom 2000 11 BCLR 1169 (CC)

Impala Water Users Association v Lourens [2004] 2 All SA 476 (SCA)

Irene Land Corporation Ltd v HTC Construction & Management CC [2004] JOL 12414 (T)

Joseph v City of Johannesburg 2010 4 SA 55 (CC)

Local Government: Municipal Systems Act 32 of 2000

Makeshift 1190 (Pty) Ltd v Cilliers 2020 3 All SA 234 (WCC)

Mkontwana v Nelson Mandela Municipality 2005 1 SA 530 (CC)

Naidoo v Moodley 1982 4 SA 82 (T)

Niehaus v High Meadow Grove Body Corporate [2019] JOL 45297 (GJ)

Nienaber v Stuckey 1946 AD 1049

Pioneer Foods (Pty) Ltd v Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd 2020 JDR 2110 (GJ)

Pioneer Foods (Pty) v Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd 2019 JDR 0564 (GJ)

Queensgae Body Corporate v Claesen [1998] ZAGPHC 1

Rademan v Moqhaka Local Municipality 2013 7 BCLR 791 (CC)

Residents of Joe Slovo Community, Western Cape v Thubelisha Homes 2010 3 SA 454 (CC)

Resilient Properties (Pty) Ltd v Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd Case no. 2018/11316 (unreported)

Sebastian and others v Malelane Irrigation Board [1950] 2 All SA 351 (T)

Speaker of the National Assembly v De Lille [1999] 4 All SA 241 (A)

Stransham-Ford v Minister of Justice and Correctional Services 2015 6 BCLR 737 (GP)

Telkom SA Ltd v Xsinet (Pty) Ltd 2003 5 SA 309 (SCA)

Tshumisano Trading v Bronkhorst [2017] JOL 38104 (LT)

Unemployed Peoples' Movement v Eastern Cape Premier 2020 3 SA 562 (ECG)

Unemployed Peoples Movement v Premier, Province of the Eastern Cape [2020] ZAECGHC 1

Wilrus Trading CC v De Street Properties [2021] JOL 49563 (GP)

Zulu v Minister of Works, KwaZulu-Natal 1992 1 SA 181 (D)

Zungu v Nilgra Flats CC [2017] ZAGPJHC 417

Web pages

Department of Mineral Resources and Energy 2019 Integrated Resources Plan http://www.energy.gov.za/IRP/2019/IRP-2019.pdf accessed 30 May 2021

World Bank 2018 Access to energy is at the heart of development https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2018/04/18/access-energy-sustainable-development-goal-7 accessed 30 May 2021

Published

2022-03-04

How to Cite

Dube, F., & Moyo, C. (2022). The Right to Electricity in South Africa. Potchefstroom Electronic Law Journal, 25, 1–21. https://doi.org/10.17159/1727-3781/2022/v25ia11839

Issue

Section

SARChi CLES Series on Cities, Law and Environmental Sustainability