Eskom hikes will only reverse gains of poor

2009-10-23 11:50

WALKING and driving through the poorest villages within the Greater Sekhukhune District, once declared the most impoverished district in the country by former president Thabo Mbeki, one can readily anticipate the residents’ joy at having electricity.

But Eskom’s recent hikes of more than 34% means lesser electricity for the villagers. For example, before the 34% hikes, consumers who bought electricity worth R100 used to have 187kW/h, but now for every R100 spent they only get 147kW/h.

The proposed increase of 45% in the next three years will mean that poor villages in areas within Sekhukhune will have to go back to using energy from wood.

Many questions are asked and the biggest is this one: does this make for a better life for all? Is this hike not going to reverse the gains of the poor?

Villagers say they were excited when the area was electrified and had hoped that this would be part of a better life for them, but unfortunately things are now worse because whenever government increases their grant, Eskom also hikes their prices and takes all they have. Going back to their roots – fetching wood to prepare meals – seems to be their only alternative at this stage.

But even that has become difficult as they get fined by nature conservationists if they are caught gathering the wood.

The arrests and fines follow from the lack of dry wood in the nearby forests and now the demand has become high.

Despite Eskom’s promised rebate of R4 917 for every R33 410 spent, this does not address the needs of the poor ­because they can’t afford it.

Makoko Lekola Bakone
Development Forum
GaRakgoadi


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