Power tariff a headache for ANC

2014-01-13 00:00

ANC members are asking how they are going to justify the city’s massive commercial tariff hike when they go out canvassing for votes for the forthcoming election.

This came up at an election planning meeting on Thursday. Several members, including former councillors, said they were being inundated with complaints from small businesses. The meeting set up a task team to engage with the municipality on the issue, as a matter of urgency.

Former ANC councillor Victor Pillay, who runs a printing business in the city, was hit with an R8 000 bill out of the blue. The tariff increase he had to pay had been backdated to July. When he went to 333 Church Street, he was rudely dismissed by an official who told him to pay up or have his power cut.

The fracas around the controversial tariff increases appears to have become an election hot potato. On Friday, the DA issued a statement saying that it was time for the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) to clearly state whether it had approved the Msunduzi Municipality’s exorbitant 900% basic charge increase for electricity to businesses.

The DA’s Mergan Chetty said that small businesses in the city were under enormous financial strain because of the increase; while Nersa claims to still be in discussion with the municipality regarding the charges.

Chetty said he will be writing to Nersa CEO Phindile Baleni to request immediate intervention to stop the hike from going ahead. “The people of Msunduzi simply cannot afford it.”

Meanwhile, the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB), which has been championing the plight of its members over the tariff issue, also issued a statement on Friday.

PCB CEO Melanie Veness sent out an e-mail to all members advising them that the chamber had strongly objected to the increase in the basic charges for commercial users.

“I am in contact with Nersa [just about on a daily basis] regarding the unacceptable increase in the basic electricity tariff for commercial users. They have confirmed that the basic charge indicated in the letter to Msunduzi included costs other than the basic charge. They have advised that a decision regarding the increase will be made shortly,” Veness said.

She added that she had also been in constant contact with Msunduzi municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi. He has advised that the municipality will abide by whatever decision Nersa takes.

“We await Nersa’s decision and will let you know as soon as we receive feedback,” Veness told members.

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