Eskom hikes hurt poor

2009-10-17 10:50

A SOWETO pensioner will have to bear the brunt of the proposed

increase in electricity prices announced this week if she wants to keep her

home.

Already, Martha Xaba (72) owes Eskom R127 470.10 and, despite

making monthly repayments to try and settle her debt, it seems that she will

forever be indebted to the power supplier.

And the news that Eskom wants to increase electricity prices by 45%

over the next three years has caused the pensioner to panic more.

“My electricity account is in ­arrears and Eskom once threatened to

attach my property. I agreed to pay R250 every month but they ­continue to

charge interest. And now this planned increase. I can’t ­afford to lose my home.

I just have to pay till the end,” says Xaba.

She is a direct Eskom customer, sharing her three-roomed house in

Orlando East with four grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

At least five shacks, occupied by her five unemployed children,

have been erected at the back of her yard. Only light bulbs are connected to the

shacks, she says.

Xaba welcomed City Press with warm hands to her small kitchen and

quickly apologised that she would not be able to offer our team anything but

water to drink.

“Everything is going up these days. Food, the price of coal and now

electricity. Things are tough and it looks like some of us will die poor. The

government increased the old- age grant but Eskom is already taking the bulk of

it away and now they want more, this is not fair.”

The widowed Xaba doesn’t know how much electricity she consumes

every month. She however points out that only one plate of her four- plate

electrical stove is functional. She uses the stove to boil water and to cook

dinner.

“We eat bread and tea during the day. The coal stove comes in handy

in winter. The other appliances we use are the iron and fridge.”

City Press is in possession of her August bill which ­reflects that

at the time she owed ­Eskom R125 767.57 and a further R1 702.57 interest on the

overdue amount.

Xaba says she was part of community members who boycotted paying

rent, rates and taxes during the early 90s. After the democratic elections, Xaba

visited the power utility and arranged to make regular ­payments to settle her

debt.

Her family survives on her old-age grant of R1 010 a month.

From that money, she pays for her funeral cover, insurance policy,

stokvel and buys toiletries and basic gro­ceries.

Last year, she could not make regular payments towards her Eskom

account after the death of her son who did not have funeral cover.

Xaba missed three payments and the utility cut her electricity

supply and further threatened her with ­legal action if she failed to pay.

She has not missed a single payment since then.

But it looks like there is no hope for an end to her troubles with

the utility, she says.


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