In a crucial ruling on May 5, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria decided in favor of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and 18 other applicants seeking relief from severe power outages that have affected much of the country.
The Court ordered the Minister of Public Enterprises to take “all reasonable steps” within 60 days to ensure that there is sufficient supply or generation of electricity to prevent any interruption due to load shedding to all public health establishments, all public schools, and the South African Police Service.
South Africa has been in the throes of an electricity crisis as Eskom, the state-owned energy utility company, has struggled to meet the country’s energy demands for over 15 years, resorting to load shedding in the process.
Record power outages over the past year have inflicted major economic losses and disrupted access to crucial public services including hospitals. Conditions are set to worsen with Eskom preparing protocols for Stage 9 load shedding, which could see outages lasting for over 14 hours a day.
In March, the United Democratic Movement (UDM) and NUMSA joined political parties, trade unions, and civil society groups in calling upon the court to declare load shedding (or rotational power cuts) unconstitutional.
As such, the application not only named Eskom, but also President Cyril Ramaphosa, the Ministers of Mineral Resources and Energy and Public Enterprises, and the South African government as a whole.