Ensuring affordable electricity as a vital socio-economic right in South Africa

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This article examines the socio-economic impacts and effects of unlawful electricity tariff increase in South Africa. Access to electricity is a vital socio-economic right in South Africa because of its intrinsic role in the fulfilment of other social economic rights. The availability and accessibility of electricity guarantees the success of many businesses and the survival of many households, particularly the rural poor. Eskom, a governmental parastatal, generates, transmits and distributes electricity for the people, and charges for these services are rendered based on the tariff approved by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA). Recently, NERSA decided to approve tariff increase requested by Eskom which was against the Electricity Regulation Act 4 of 2006 and the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 1996. This increase was contested and nullified in court. If this tariff increase had not been challenged in the court, it would have had a devastating impact on the well-being of the people, particularly the poor. Using literature relevant to socio-economic rights to modern energy, particularly electricity, this article accentuates that electricity is a basic socio-economic right in South Africa that must be accessible and affordable to all. It explains the importance of judicial intervention in ensuring that socio-economic rights are made available and accessible to the people. It points out that the court will not hesitate in using its judicial power to extend any opportunity which allows poor people to access and enjoy right to modern energy and electricity and other socio-economic rights in South Africa.

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