Bid to sneak in new hike

2013-10-31 00:00

MSUNDUZI officials stand accused of trying to sneak in a R200 basic charge on electricity to offset being forced by the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa) to only raise usage tariffs by seven and not 10%.

During a heated debate the DA’s Mergan Chetty called the move a rip-off.

The discussion on the tariff adjustment at yesterday’s full council meeting started with Chetty asking whether consumers would get a three percentage point reduction on their basic charge and mini circuit breaker (MCB) tariff increases as well.

At the last Executive Committee (Exco) meeting municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi said that Nersa only regulated usage charges and its mandate did not cover MCB and basic charge increases — so the 10% increases on these charges would remain.

Nkosi went on to say that the situation had changed somewhat since the Exco meeting and he would get deputy municipal manager Thokozani Maseko to explain.

Maseko said a new document had since arrived from Nersa, which said that the municipality could raise its basic charge to R200 from the current R17.

This was when temperatures rose in the council chamber and opposition councillors wanted to know why they had not been shown the Nersa document. Chetty said they could not support a recommendation authorising the chief financial officer to make credit adjustments for consumers without knowing whether the amount would be increased or decreased.

Rodger Ashe (DA) described the situation as outrageous. “This is a most amazing turn of events. We as councillors had come here to adjust the user charges downwards. There was nothing about increasing anything and suddenly this pops up. Now we hear that the basic charge could go up from R17 to R200. We have got to see in writing what we are approving,” he said.

Nkosi apologised to councillors, saying the document had only arrived this week and council agendas had already gone out.

Chetty reminded council that when the basic charge of R17 was introduced a year ago there was huge resistance from consumers. “Now you are going to tell them that the basic charge may go up to R200, this is a very problematic resolution,” he said.

At this point, the ANC called for a 15-minute break to discuss the matter in caucus. When council resumed, Speaker Babu Baijoo announced that the matter would be stood down until a special full council meeting next Tuesday, November 5 at 2.15 pm, to decide on the matter.

The DA tried to push to have part of the resolution passed, that the electricity tariff increase be adjusted down to seven percent. However, Baijoo said this could not be done. He said he had since seen the Nersa document and that it was a legal document and therefore the issue had become legal, so any recommendations had to be considered as a whole. Baijoo told councillors they would get copies of the Nersa document by Friday to read and discuss before Tuesday’s council meeting.

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