Eskom's tariff hike request amounts to extortion - SME owner

Johannesburg - South Africans are capable of coping with planned load shedding, but they will not be able to afford higher electricity tariffs, a small business owner said on Wednesday.

"Eskom has made its bed and must lie in it. We can't just bail Eskom out all the time," Angus Macmillan, who runs corporate communication company Macmillan Communications told a National Energy Regulator of SA public hearing in Johannesburg on Eskom's application for a further hike in tariff prices.

"Imposed planned load shedding? Sure, we can handle that. But don't hike tariffs beyond affordability. It will do more harm than good to South Africa and its citizens."

He said Eskom's request for a 25.3% tariff increase should not be granted.

"Its request for this massive increase amounts to extortion from a monopolistic organisation which is trying to make its customers pay for its and its solitary shareholder's lack of planning, foresight and power station maintenance," he said.

"The 12.6% it has already received for 2015/16 is twice the rate of inflation and is already much higher than the 8% that was originally granted for the 2015/16 year.

"Just because Eskom is struggling to fund its new power stations and to keep its old ones going doesn't mean it can ask for and receive double digit tariff increases."

He said Eskom and its shareholder had to take responsibility for their actions or "lack of action over the past 10 to 20 years".

"Eskom, the government and the economy have to make sacrifices as a result of the power supply crunch. It cannot simply be solved by cranking up tariffs," Macmillan argued.

"Planned power outages, if they are well communicated, should be continued until Eskom has fully commissioned Medupi and Kusile and more renewable energy projects come on stream."

He said he, as a small business owner, asked for and received a 6% increase for his services from his clients for this year.

"Could I ask for and expect to receive 12.6% increase? You have got to be kidding," Macmillan said.

 "Could I plead all sorts of reasons why I need a 25.3% increase? I would lose all of my clients and I would have to close my business."

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