Eskom hike; no one is impressed

2019-01-31 06:21
The group who attended and made presentations at the hearing.PHOTOS: Project 90 by 2030

The group who attended and made presentations at the hearing.PHOTOS: Project 90 by 2030

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The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) has begun a round of continued public hearings on Eskom’s proposed electricity price hike of 15% for 2019, with a projected overall increase of 45% by 2021.

From Monday 14 January, the Southern African Faith Communities’ Environment Institute (SAFCEI) – with faith-based and environmental partners, and the public – presented a variety of compelling arguments at the hearings, opposing the proposal.

A number of communities were represented, including Mitchell’s Plain, Bellville, Gugulethu and Khayelitsha.

Vainola Makan, SAFCEI’s energy justice coordinator, said: “If granted, this price increase will severely impact all electricity consumers across the country, many of whom already struggle to pay their daily bills. Citizens should not have to suffer energy increases every year. It would be far more responsible for Eskom to recover the funds it has lost through mismanagement over many years.”

SAFCEI believes that ethical custodianship of the Earth’s resources is essential to sustainable development, and urges Nersa to operate on a value-based system that places the needs of all citizens at the forefront of its agenda. The NPO further proposes a refocusing of Eskom’s vision, to ensure that it promotes the much-needed shift to clean energy solutions.

Joyce Malebu of the Gugulethu Backyarders’ Association said: “I represent mostly the pensioners and the backyard dwellers – those who live in shacks in the yards of houses. Nersa needs to think about the poorest of the poor, who either rely on a very low government grant or who are unemployed with absolutely no income, not even a grant. Where must these people get money for electricity to live?

“We rely on electricity for so many things, but now people must go back to paraffin – which is dangerous and can lead to shack fires.

“How can Nersa, in good faith toward the country’s citizens, grant an increase to Eskom? The people can’t afford it, because electricity is already unaffordable. Those people working at Eskom and Nersa, you’ve got money and earn high salaries. What about those who don’t have any money?” asked Malebu

Also representing was Sizwe Manqele from Khayelitsha, a SAFCEI Youth Champion.

He said: “I was at NERSA to express my voice as a citizen. There are various issues on Eskom that NERSA needs to look at, particularly regarding how it is run.

Is Eskom a public entity concerned with improving the quality of the lives of South Africans, or is it a private company looking to make profits for its management and shareholders?”

“The cost of many other basics has increased dramatically. What will the impact be on the poor, if they still have to contend with the additional burden of an increase in the cost of electricity? If granted, Eskom’s price hikes will amount to energy warfare on the poor. Furthermore, water is another resource at risk, since there are lots of droughts happening, due to global warming,” adds Manqele.

Wendy Pekeur, a community leader from Elsenberg in Stellenbosch and founder of the Ubuntu Rural Women and Youth Movement, said: “It was very enlightening to participate in the Nersa hearing. One thing is very clear: Eskom is in deep trouble as a result of accumulating years of debt. And, it seems that since it could always rely on government for a bailout, it has become reckless and negligent.”

In her presentation to Nersa, Pekeur emphasised that corruption, maladministration and mismanagement have basically left Eskom bankrupt. “And, what does it want to do now? Now it wants to recover that money from the consumer. I know too many people who are struggling to keep their heads above water. I can confirm that people are going back to the old ways of paraffin, candles, gas and outside fires, because electricity prices are just too high. That is why we need energy justice now, because electricity provided by the country’s energy supplier should not only be affordable to the rich. Eskom must get its house in order.

“(Today) I speak for farmworkers and rural people in my community and around the country, who cannot afford the proposed increase, but are unable to access the Nersa hearings.

In one example, the household electricity bill for a retired farmworker’s household comes to more than R1000 per month. This is because the only place he can buy electricity is from the farmer,” added Pekeur.

Lydia Petersen, another woman from Mitchell’s Plain, who joined with Project 90 by 2030, said: “We are concerned about Eskom’s proposed price increase.”


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