PMB unites against hike

2015-06-24 10:48
Pacsa and other organisations and citizens of Pietermaritzburg marched to the city hall in protest of the 25,3% electricity increase.

Pacsa and other organisations and citizens of Pietermaritzburg marched to the city hall in protest of the 25,3% electricity increase. (Jonathan Burton)

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“ESKOM is killing us and we cannot afford to pay any more for power.”

That was the message Pietermaritzburg ­citizens projected in a demonstration against ­Eskom’s proposed increase in the city centre yesterday.

The Msunduzi Economic Development Agency (Meda) arrived at the electricity hike protest march with a coffin and a hangman dummy.

A convoy of about 15 vehicles arrived outside the city hall decorated with bright banners calling for the National Energy Regulator (Nersa) to reject Eskom’s proposal.

Part of the convoy, a vehicle with a brown and gold casket and a balaclava-clad dummy hanging from a wooden structure, added to the protesters’ cry for Eskom’s mercy.

Hundreds of people marched through the streets from Dales Park to the city hall where a memorandum was handed over to Msunduzi mayor Chris Ndlela to object to Eskom’s proposed 25,3% hike in electricity tariffs.

Pensioners, business owners, residents and religious leaders were among over 600 protesters who marched against the increase.

“We have been bullied by Eskom for far too long. This needs to stop now,” said Howick farmer Rob Smith.

“I acknowledge people cannot afford the electricity hike and I do promise feedback. I will take the matter further,” promised Ndlela.

The mayor said council “empathises” with the residents and they are waiting for “due processes to unfold”.

“We [council] do hope something reasonable for everyone comes out of this. We do, however, officiate their concerns,” said Ndlela.

After the march, a group of protesters left to travel to Johannesburg to hand over the memorandum at the Nersa public hearings at the Nasrec Expo Centre in Johannesburg.

The Pietermaritzburg group have secured a time slot in today’s public hearing and will also be handing over the petition with 4 124 signatures.

Reverend Max Manqokontsi of the Midlands Christian Council said every religious organisation is part of the community and needs to stand with the community against the increase.

“This increase will bring with it doom, gloom and devastation. People deserve light in their lives and we pray that God opens the hearts of those people who will decide on the increase,” said ­Manqokontsi.

As the march proceeded from Dales Park in Mayors Walk, more people joined in, chanting, “PMB says no to increase” and, “From land to sea, people must be free”.

However, some protesters said they were disappointed with the turnout at the march. Msunduzi Rates Forum (MRF) chairperson Babs Sithapersad said the group does not support the “unnecessary” increases and was also dispirited by the numbers.

“I feel the turnout is an absolute disappointment for an issue that affects everyone,” he said.

Another protester, Ashley Rungasamy, said all factories and shops should have downed tools to make their voices heard.

“Electricity affects everybody and although this protest was well planned and much needed, there are not enough people to really make our voice heard,” said Rungasamy.

Protest march organisers Stop Eskom’s 25% Hike Coalition, said they were also “slightly” ­disappointed with the turnout, but “excited at the diversity” of people who attended the march.

“It was wonderful to see people protest in unity. We believe the message went out quite far and everyone seemed excited to have a voice in this,” said Julie Smith of the coalition.

EASTWOOD pensioners Glynis Easthorpe and Ora Socken said they participated in the march although they were ill.

“We are no longer young but we had to be here today to voice our needs. Our electricity account is higher than the amount we receive in our pension every month,” said Easthorpe.

She said she and her husband, Grenvill, survive solely on their government pensions each month.

“With the medicine shortages in the hospitals and clinics, we are now forced to buy medication from Dischem and other pharmacies. We use our grant money to pay for our house, buy medication and food. We have no money left to fill up with petrol or buy clothes or anything else that we may need,” she said.

Socken, who is a widow, said the only income in her home was that of her R1 400 government pension.

“With my R 1 400 I pay for lights, rates, food and taxi fares to the hospitals. There is no extra money for anything else. If the electricity goes up, I will only be able to cut back on money I spend on food and that is not right,” said Socken.

HOWICK resident Thokozani Duma said the electricity hike will be the “height” of his list of problems.

“I am unemployed and finding it very difficult to take care of my family as it is. This hike, if passed, will be added at the top of list of problems,” he said.

Duma said he was forced to use his elderly mother’s pension to pay for electricity last month.

“I have children and since I do odd jobs wherever I can, I only make about R200. If the electricity goes up then everything will go up too. How will I afford to pay for my children’s school fees and run the house?” asked Duma.

He said he travelled from Howick to Pietermaritzburg to participate in the protest march as “the electricity hike is a priority in my life right now”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  tariff hikes

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