Electricity tariffs anger local industry

2009-08-21 00:00

INDUSTRIALISTS in Pietermaritzburg are outraged at municipal electricity tariffs and, more particularly, at the increases imposed from July 1.

According to the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB), the municipal tariffs are already much higher than those charged by Eskom, and the increases are substantially in excess of the actual increased amounts that the municipality will be paying to Eskom for its bulk purchases of electricity.

Industrialists have warned of an increase in the number of retrenchments because many firms are facing challenges of sustainability.

It is understood that some will seriously consider relocating to other places where tariffs are more reasonable and affordable and where municipal councils and officials are more sympathetic to the needs of industry.

Others suggest their companies will not consider expansion in Pietermaritzburg for similar reasons.

At a meeting of industrialists this week, there was strong condemnation of the municipality’s decisions over electricitty tariffs and its intractability.

After several meetings, the PCB and its industry members have failed to convince officials and councillors that the way in which the increases are being imposed is unjustified, opportunistic and immoral.

Said PCB president Tinus Havinga: “Although this matter is of particular concern to manufacturers, who are the biggest consumers of electricity and are finding the extra costs difficult to bear at this time of economic crisis, all consumers in Pietermaritzburg are affected and should be aware that the municipality is enhancing its own profits from the sale of electricity by exploiting the Eskom increase in this way.”

The PCB has urged the municipality to review its whole tariff structure on the grounds that it reflects unfair exploitation of the industrial sector.

Said Andrew Layman, CEO of the chamber: “The economic future of the capital city, in particular a solution to its unemployment problem, depends upon a vibrant and growing manufacturing sector. Unfortunately, the prospects are bleak at present.”

Acting deputy municipal manager Sithembiso Mbimbi, responding to questions fromThe Witness, said the municipality is revisiting its tariffs for the 2010/11 financial year. “We have an Exco resolution that says any business owner … whose business is seriously affected by the current recession can approach the municipality with relevant documentation to request assistance. The municipality will definitely look into the individual application.”

 

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