Mayor warns against massive electricity price hike for South Africa

Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis says his city formally rejects an application by Eskom to increase the price of electricity by 20.5% in the 2022/2023 financial year.

In a letter addressed to Eskom chief executive André de Ruyter, Hill-Lewis asked that Eskom formally withdraw the application or alternatively revise it to bring the planned increase in line with inflation. He warned that citizens simply cannot afford the planned increase.

“Like the majority of South Africans, many Capetonians are struggling to make ends meet. The pandemic and national lockdown led to the closure of hundreds of businesses in our City and the loss of thousands of jobs. Our residents are faltering under the burden of the rising costs of energy, fuel, food, and basic consumer goods.

“The consumer price index (CPI) is currently stated as 5,5%; this would have been a more reasonable tariff increase for Eskom. The price of electricity has risen by 307% over the past 13 years, far exceeding inflation. Despite paying more for power, South Africans have experienced an unreliable electricity supply — 2020 and 2021 were two of the worst load shedding years on record.”

While Hill-Lewis acknowledged that some of Eskom’s inefficiencies have improved under De Ruyter, he cautioned that passing the bill on to struggling consumers should not be the default solution.

The mayor said that several alternative strategies have been suggested to Eskom, including:

  • Urgently reducing Eskom’s bloated payroll;
  • Cancelling tenders with unscrupulous suppliers who provide Eskom with goods and services at massively inflated prices;
  • Ending corruption and mismanagement (irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure cost the utility R14,6 billion in 2020 and R7,4 billion in 2019);
  • Recovering money that has been looted during the period of state capture; and
  • Adopting a greater focus on recovering debt from defaulters rather than targeting those who are paying their bills, who have in effect become ‘soft targets’.

“The law requires the National Energy Regulator (Nersa) to table the 2022/23 price determination in Parliament by no later than 15 March. This means there is still time for Eskom to urgently revise its application. The City will petition SALGA members, Nersa, and other stakeholders to oppose Eskom’s application if they fail to revise it,” Hill-Lewis said.

He said that it was extreme injustice that ordinary residents be forced to bear the cost of Eskom’s inability to fix its own problems.

“Moreover, the planned increase will further limit struggling businesses’ ability to operate profitably and to sustain and create jobs. It will destroy the hope of economic recovery in South Africa and add to our burden of poverty.

“I hope that Mr De Ruyter will do the right thing and withdraw Eskom’s application for the price hike immediately.”

Read: Eskom adding 800MW to the national grid as Kusile Unit 4 gets connected

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