16 January 2019, Jason Felix
THE National Energy Regulator of SA’s panel of Muzi Mkhize, Jacob Modise, Nomfundo Maseti, Nersa chief executive Christopher Forlee, and Fungai Sibanda heard submissions from Eskom as well as concerned citizens and action groups about the power utility’s proposed 15% annual increase for the next three years. Picture: NERSA Facebook Page
Cape Town – Despair. Poverty. Prayer. These words summed up the second leg of public hearings by the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) into Eskom’s demand for a price hike.
It was here that cash-strapped consumers made an urgent and emotional plea to Nersa to end poverty and inequality and scrap Eskom’s request for a 45% tariff increase over the next three years.
Energy activist from Project 90 Thando Lukuko said over the years, evidence showed that increases affected the poor the most.
“Our argument is that households are already struggling to survive every day. Not only lower-income families have troubles, but the majority of the middle-class people struggle to make a decent living.
“I believe that Eskom has no real plan to improve the situation and invest in new ways of generating energy,” he said.
Agri Western Cape chairperson Carl Opperman said there was an inextricable link between the financial sustainability of Eskom and the economy as a whole.
“Eskom has from as early as the AgriLek era been a strategic partner in agriculture from farm to fork, not only in production and processing, but also in securing power input for security systems that support rural safety – a major crisis at present,” he said.
Opperman said taxpayers’ money was being wasted at a time when the economy and state-owned enterprises, of which Eskom was one, were facing serious challenges.
“Rumoured irregularities and the lack of corporate governance harm the public perception and trust. The question that needs to be asked is, why the Department of Energy, Nersa, the portfolio committee on energy and state enterprises, Parliament and Cabinet did not intervene to protect South Africa’s growth and our well-being from this disaster,” Opperman said.
“Consumers and business fund the government via taxes, so government funding is obtained from the taxpayer. The government guarantees are on the back of the taxpayers’ money.
“Now we must fund Eskom with an increased tariff which is not affordable,” he said.
Joyce Malebu, one of several backyarders who attended the hearings, said the power utility made consumers poorer every year.
“I am begging you, please stop the poverty and the inequality. Please stop it now. We cannot survive in the current conditions. We cannot live a decent life any more because the little we have is not enough to cover our basic needs.
“If we buy R20 electricity, we get a small number of units, but that is all that we can afford. We need to keep our stoves on and we cannot live in the dark,” she said.
“Every year we have to hear of things increasing. Last year it was the VAT. We need to pray that our leaders make the right decisions, and I pray that Nersa and its leadership make a decision in favour of us,” she said.
Lydia Petersen, from Mitchells Plain, said most households were led by grandparents living off a government social grant.
“We have what we call Sassa grant-led homes.
“It is simply too difficult for people to make a living.
“It is impossible to make a living with all these high increases. Today we are told that Eskom wants a 15% increase in the price of electricity.
“I implore you, please do not go ahead with this,” she said.
The next round of Nersa public hearings will be held in the Eastern Cape.