Cape Town - Western Cape farmworkers may benefit from
Eskom's free basic electricity grant in the future, provincial premier Helen
Zille said in her state of the province speech on Friday.
Addressing the provincial legislature in Cape Town, she said
she hoped to roll out a major pilot project in partnership with Eskom in the
Hex River Valley next year.
This move followed violent farmworker protests for higher
wages and better living conditions at the end of 2012 and the start of 2013.
Workers in two municipalities had since been surveyed to
understand their needs.
"One of the main issues raised by farmworkers so far is
the fact that they do not qualify for free basic services when living on
Zille said Eskom traditionally supplied electricity to the
farmer, who did not qualify for the free service, with tariffs varying from
farm to farm.
She said if the pilot was successful, the province would be
the first to provide free basic electricity to farmworkers.
"We have chosen the Hex River Valley area for the pilot
project because it comprises 170 farms with approximately 2 000 farmworker
households, which means a large number of families will benefit from the
project, and we will be able to test it at scale."
A task team comprising Eskom and the local government and
agriculture departments had developed a business plan for the project.
It was expected to start in February next year if the
necessary R12.5m funding was secured from the national treasury and the
national departments of energy, and rural development and land affairs.