Picture: for illustration purposes

Mbombela Manufacturer Secures Court Order against Load Shedding, Paving Way for Industrial Resilience

Published September 21, 2023
8 months ago

In a symbolic victory for South African industry battling power shortages, Sonae Arauco, a Mbombela-based manufacturer of wooden panels for the construction sector, has secured a high court order prohibiting Eskom and Mbombela municipality from implementing load shedding at its plant. The court ruling hinged on an earlier agreement where the manufacturer committed to reducing its consumption to at least 70% in exchange for uninterrupted power supply.

The factory, nestled at Rocky Drift, between Mbombela and White River, is the municipality's largest customer, with an annual electricity invoice exceeding R100 million. The operations run round-the-clock, meaning consistent power supply is paramount for its 250 employees' safety and the expensive, high-temperature equipment.

Judge Henk Roelofse, in his ruling, asked the municipality and Eskom to honour the agreement despite Eskom’s entitlement to impose load shedding where municipalities fail to lessen their load adequately.

Sonae Arauco, with no alternative power source, cited the agreement as a lifeline to its continued operation. It decried the municipality's change of stance in December 2022 when load shedding hit without warning, jeopardising equipment, lives, and commercial feasibility.

The court order serves as a resolute response to the energy crisis facing South Africa. Municipalities and energy providers like Eskom should seek creative means to avoid reneging on similar commitments, according to Morné Mostert, head of local government at AfriForum.

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