The fight for gas between Egoli Gas and Kensington residents has entered the Gauteng High Court, Johannesburg, after the community association filed papers.
The gas company, in a bid to induce residents, has stepped up its gas rebate from R3,000 in September to R8,000 while also offering an LPG gas cylinder, biscuits, and a voucher for residents. The voucher is aimed at offering residents reduced rates for their LPG gas cylinders and related costs.
The Kensington Community Association (KCA) has urged residents not to take the offer, saying it is manipulative and bait. They are accusing the company of depositing the R8,000 into owner’s bank accounts without seeking the necessary approvals and documentation.
Brett Anderson, who is a KCA executive and also a resident who spent close to R40,000 on setting up a gas geyser installation and piping as recently as January this year, was horrified that his investment could go down the drain in the space of less than 12 months.
Getting his Kensington house gas-ready cost him R37,000, including spending R15,000 on a gas geyser, R11,000 on a one-inch pipe that connected the house to Egoli’s pipeline, and a further R11,000 on a water pipe installation.
“I invested in January because I thought I was being a responsible citizen,” said the resident in an earlier article.
The KCA filed papers seeking to interdict Egoli Gas from discontinuing its supply of natural piped gas to the residents of the Joburg suburb.
The City of Joburg and the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) were also cited in papers, but they are understood not to oppose the matter.
In September, IOL reported that Egoli Gas had informed residents of its intention to leave the area and stop cycling gas, citing business reasons.
Natural gas has been a credible alternative to South Africa’s load shedding crisis for some fortunate communities, including residents of Kensington, who have used it to run their gas geysers, stoves, heaters, and other appliances in their homes.
In a circular to residents, the KCA’s gas task team said they were seeking to interdict Egoli Gas from cutting off “our natural gas until the courts make a final decision”.
“The strong legal case of our community is based both on discrimination and on a failure to meet licence obligations. The urgent case will be heard in court on Tuesday, January 16, 2024.
“Over the past 20+ years, Egoli Gas has failed to meet its legal obligation and social contract to provide an energy-efficient, low-carbon alternative.
"Instead, Egoli Gas has opted to maximise profits and has neglected the maintenance and upgrade of infrastructure. They have deterred low- and middle-income neighbourhoods from access to alternative energy in favour of newer/wealthier suburbs,” said the gas task team.
Anderson said Kensington residents were refusing to be bullied like other communities, which allowed Egoli Gas to cut them off without a fight.
“Their plan is to cut us off, all of us in the east of Johannesburg, and we are saying this is economic duress; we will not allow it, not without a fight. They are forcing people who are living salary to salary to incur more debt; they are forcing them into more debt; we will not standby.
“They can keep their biscuits, we’ll see them in court,” he said.
EGOLI GAS RESPONSE
Egoli Gas spokesperson Sewela Makgolane confirmed they were opposing the matter. The court had given them until Friday to file answering affidavits, but it is understood the court granted an extension for Monday.
They said Egoli Gas had taken various steps to minimise the potential adverse economic consequences of the imminent termination of supply to Kensington residents.
Makgolane confirmed they were offering:
– A rebate of R8,000 to our customers
– Securing the supply of LPG cylinders for the effected residents at substantially reduced rates from suppliers
– Engaging with gas practitioners to provide preferential rates to affected community members
– Assist NGOs and NPOs with their conversion costs.
Egoli Gas said a settlement with the KCA has not proved to be possible, but KCA community leaders have accused the company of trying to divide and conquer, as they apparently tried to meet with members individually and not as a collective.
Egoli Gas said it was “in regular contact with our customers throughout the process."
They have set the date of January 31, 2024, as the cut-off date in the area.
Meanwhile, the KCA gas task team said it was warning residents to “be aware of coercive activities by Egoli Gas”.
They told residents that the R8,000 rebate was deposited into their accounts without any formal documentation.
They told residents they were under no obligation to allow the meter to be removed and that they had to be weary of Egoli Gas dropping off a gas cylinder, biscuits, and a voucher to get the cylinder filled.
“Please see this for what it is: manipulative and very short-sighted in terms of long-term costs. LPG is almost twice the cost of natural piped gas,” they said.