This blog was co-authored by candidate attorney, Jos Fogle.

In City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality v Vresthena (Pty) Ltd and Others (1346/ 2022) [2024] ZASCA 51 (18 April 2024),

Electricity was supplied to an entire commercial property through the body corporate by means of a single supply point by the municipality. The owners of the sectional titles would pay levies to the body corporate who would then pay the municipality. The body corporate continuously failed to pay the municipality for services, and this resulted in the municipality implementing credit control measures and disconnecting the electricity supply to the property.

The corporate owner of one of the sections succeeded in an urgent application to the high court for an order to restore the electricity connection to the entire commercial property, not just its section. The municipality appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeal (SCA).

The SCA had to consider two issues: whether the interim order granted by the high court was appealable; and, if it was, the merits.

The SCA found that an interim order may be appealable in our law if:

  • the decision is final in its effect and not susceptible to alteration by the court that granted the order;
  • it is definitive of the rights of the parties and has the effect of disposing at least a substantial portion of the relief sought in the proceedings; and
  • is in the interests of justice, given the facts of the specific case.

Having considered the above factors, the SCA established that the order granted by the high court was final in effect and therefore appealable. If the electricity was restored to the whole property without any direct obligation on any of the sectional title owners to pay for the consumption of the electricity, the order would result in a grave injustice and would be contrary to the interests of justice.

Municipalities are responsible to provide electricity, as regulated by the Constitution, statutes, and by-laws.  They are, however, similarly obliged to ensure that they are solvent and financially sustainable. Municipalities are constitutionally obliged to implement debt collection measures for services rendered. This means that the municipality was enjoined to implement credit and debt collection measures against the body corporate and to terminate the supply of electricity to the entire commercial property due to non-payment.

The requirement to show that the prejudice cannot be cured by some other remedy in law for a successful urgent interdict to be grant was not met.  The sectional title owner had another remedy available in terms of the Sectional Titles Act, which entitles sectional titles owners to appoint new and effective trustees which the sectional title owner did not do in this case.

 The SCA took the above into account and held that the interim order was appealable by the municipality and the high court’s order was set aside.

This case demonstrates that where electricity is supplied to a commercial property by way of a single supply point and is subsequently disconnected by the municipality due to non-payment, it is unlikely that an individual sectional title owner will be successful in compelling the municipality to restore the electricity connection because of its constitutional debt collection obligations.  Sectional title owners must pursue other remedies to their disposal in terms of the Sectional Titles Act.

 [City of Tshwane Metropolitan Municipality v Vresthena (Pty) Ltd and Others (1346/2022) [2024] ZASCA 51 (18 April 2024) (]