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Power battle looms

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Community forum objects to proposed electricity hikes.

FLASHBACK: Residents are seen here gathered at the Mandela Ground Circle across from the Pick * Pay in Galeshewe during a meeting in 2018 to discuss the planned electricity hike being implemented by the Sol Plaatje Municipality. Residents are now objecting to a planned tariff hike by the municipality this year.

The Sol Plaatje Community Forum has sent a letter to the Sol Plaatje Municipality objecting to the proposed electricity tariff increases.

A series of public meetings have already been held across the city to allow public participation in the budget, including the proposed tariff increases.

The Sol Plaatje City Council has proposed that instead of the current four-tier incline block structure, which sees the cost of electricity increasing incrementally according to the number of units used, a two-tier structure, which will see higher tariffs during the peak winter months, be implemented.

In a message posted on social media yesterday, the Sol Plaatje Community Forum said that while it agreed that the municipality needed to increase the price of electricity, it added that these increases should be considerate to those less fortunate and not exclude people from basic services by pricing it so that it solely benefits those who can afford it.

“Having attended the community meetings called by the municipality in the past month and receiving input that the municipality is told by National Treasury that if they do not submit the tariffs as is, that the budget will not be accepted by National Treasury is disingenuous as Treasury does not prescribe prices,” the letter states.

It adds that the assertion that Nersa has instructed the municipality these prices “is similarly not truthful”.

The letter points out further that the implementation of winter and summer tariffs, as well as increasing the price by 86.6%, was a “regression” of what the executive mayor had stated previously.

The organisation proposes that the municipality keeps the current Incline Block Tariffs in an attempt to cushion those who use less electricity from high prices. It proposes an 11.4% increase on the current tariffs.

“The proposed electricity tariff charge is being done without any prior consultation. It is being done solely for budgetary purposes and does not take the people into consideration.”

It states that Nersa’s Incline Block Tariff is aimed at having an electricity supply that is considerate of the socio-economic situation in the country by charging a lower price for those who use less electricity.

“In the past, the Sol Plaatje Municipality had a winter and summer tariff structure and abolished it for households in support of what Nersa implemented countrywide. Nine years later, the municipality now wants to revert to a pricing system that takes our people back to unaffordable prices that do not take into consideration the socio-economic situation in the city.

“Although there is a 50 unit subsidy by National Treasury, even indigent households are forced to pay much higher prices than they currently do.”

It pointed out that from paying R1.35 per unit in the second block, they would now be required to pay R1.89 a unit. “This is a 29% increase on the current price and not 11.4% as tabled in the budget.”

The organisation has also called for the municipality to remove the clause in the budget which states that the local authority hold a certain percentage of prepared purchase value for all customers who are in arrears, while those who fault three or more times on arrangements will be blacklisted with the Credit Bureau.

“The municipality is not a registered credit provider and may not register clients with the Credit Bureau, withholding a percentage of the money paid for electricity for other commitments is in fact changing the price of electricity for the purchaser, which needs to be consulted with the community and Nersa.”

It adds further that the municipality removed the basic charge in response to protests. “It was also not consulted on and was falsely claimed to be a Nersa directive. For the municipality to now say it needs to ‘recover’ the R260 basic tariff is tantamount to saying that while it agrees that it was wrong, it will get this money from the community one way or another.

“This is contradictory to the mayor’s speech in the budget of having learnt from past experience and wanting to work together.”

The Sol Plaatje Community Forum has also called for other price increases for refuse removal, rates and taxes, sewerage and water to be in line with inflation “as they are above inflation”.

“The municipality must substantiate why these are being increased above inflation.”

The new electricity tariff being proposed by the municipality will see residents using 0-50 units, who are now paying R1.05 a unit, paying R2.11 in winter and R1.95 in summer.

Those using between 51-350 units, who now pay R1.50 a unit, will pay R2.11 in winter and R1.95 a summer.

Those using 351-600 units, who now pay R1.90 a unit, will pay R2.54 in winter and R2.42 in summer.

Those using more than 600 units, who now pay R2.29 a unit, will pay R2.54 in winter and R2.42 in summer.