City to ‘come to a standstill’

2015-06-04 14:58
SA need to re-evaluate coal as an energy source, Derek Hanekom has said. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

SA need to re-evaluate coal as an energy source, Derek Hanekom has said. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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IT’S 25% too far.

That’s the view of those who ­gathered at a community meeting held at the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (Pacsa) ­offices on Tuesday.

At the meeting, it was resolved that a city-wide mass protest march against Eskom’s 25,3% electricity tariff hike take place before the National Energy Regulator makes their decision on the increase at month end.

“The city must come to a complete standstill. Businesses, schools, the rural community and every other citizen needs to be present and let themselves be heard. We need to mobilise our ­people and we need to take action,” said Cosatu member Chief Dlamini.

Worker unions, ratepayer forums, non-profit organisations, church organisations and community members gathered to discuss the way forward.

“As many are aware, Eskom has ­applied to the National Energy ­Regulator (Nersa) to increase the ­electricity tariffs. We need the ­community, businesses and ­organisations to get together and let our voices be heard. We need Nersa to hear us and reject Eskom’s proposal,” said chairperson of the meeting and ­director of Pacsa Mervyn Abrahams.

The regulator said in a statement last month that the proposed increase includes the 12,69% it has already approved, a 10,10% “selective reopener for OCGTs (open-cycle gas turbines), STPPP (short-term power purchase programme)” and a 2,51% increase in the environmental levy by 2c/kWh.

The “mass gathering” is planned to take place on June 23. The group is also in the process of drawing up a ­petition and is urging everyone to sign the document.

“We need to get to the streets and organisations to [get people to] sign our petition. Old age homes, ratepayers’ forums, Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business and even the Msunduzi councillors need to come on board with this. It affects everyone and we need to help one another,” said Peter Green of the Scottsville Ratepayers Association.

Environmental justice service and developmental organisation ­groundWork said big industries demanding high usage of electricity should foot the bill that is now being unfairly passed on to all energy users.

“The escalation in tariffs results from the decisions based on the ­interests of big industry and the bill rightly belongs with them. The ­majority of people cannot afford it and should not be asked to pay it,” said ­Robbie Mokgalaka of groundWork.

He added that the combination of load shedding and high bills will lead to job losses, unhealthy eating and an ­increase in crime.

“Pensioners are particularly ­aggrieved as the electricity bill consumes a very large part of their income. In our observation, it is not just that the tariff hikes have put a squeeze on poor households, they are actually driving households into poverty,” he said.

Energy expert Chris Yelland said the increase will have “a severe impact on all in South Africa, especially the poor and middle class” and will push energy users into debt. “This will affect the economy in a big way. The inflation rate will increase as factories, mines and businesses will be affected. It’s going to push people over the edge,” he said.

He said protest action from ­communities “may not work” as Nersa looks at “hard facts and not emotions” when making their decisions.

“This certainly does not mean that people should not protest. They have every right to. In their processes of protesting the hike, people should point out Eskom’s rush in applying for the increase. They should point out the mistakes Eskom has made and how all their figures are wrong. Hopefully ­Nersa looks closely at the application and rejects it,” said Yelland.

A second meeting will be held at the Pacsa offices (170 Hoosen Haffejee Street) next Tuesday at 5.30 pm and everyone is urged to attend

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