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Sparks fly over electricity hike

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Nocci and the Kimberley Action Group have condemned the 10.6 percent electricity hike for the City, which they believe was unlawfully implemented this week.

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THE NORTHERN Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nocci) and the Kimberley Action Group have condemned the 10.6 percent electricity hike for the City, which they believe was unlawfully implemented this week.

Cash-strapped residents stated that they were unable to afford the exorbitant price increases.

Sol Plaatje Municipality advised ratepayers on June 30 that the revised National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa)-approved electricity tariff increase would come into effect the following day, on July 1.

This is despite a court order that was obtained on June 28, which declared Nersa’s approval of municipal licensed distributors as “unlawful and invalid” for the 2024/25 financial year.

Sol Plaatje Municipality was not included on the list of 66 legally compliant municipalities that are permitted to implement electricity increases.

A Gauteng High Court judgment stated that municipalities that had not been granted approval from Nersa should continue to levy electricity at the same 2023/24 tariff.

A meeting was convened by the municipality yesterday with the local business sector, interest groups, Nersa and the National Treasury to address “misperceptions” surrounding the tariff increases.

Kimberley Action Group representative Boyce Makodi highlighted the lack of consultation and public participation.

He pointed out that the 121.2 percent increase on the basic and capacity charge was unacceptable.

“A portion of prepaid purchases will be deducted from accounts that are in arrears,” Makodi noted.

Protests flared up in many areas of the city recently after the power supply was blocked for those in arrears.

Makodi stated that the mayor’s office had refused to accept the letter, which was also delivered to the Speaker and municipal manager on Tuesday, requesting a meeting to discuss the new tariffs.

Nocci chief executive officer Sharon Steyn has requested clarity as to why the increase was introduced, in contravention of the court order that was obtained against Nersa by AfriForum.

“Sol Plaatje Municipality would have to submit a cost of supply study within 60 days of the date of the court order, for Nersa to approve the new tariffs,” Steyn pointed out.

She added that the tariff increases were therefore “illegal and in contravention of the court order”.

Nersa spokesperson Charles Hlebela stated that municipalities could continue to implement the new tariffs pending an application to appeal the court ruling.

He indicated that the court ruling came after Nersa had approved 178 distributor’s tariff applications for implementation on July 1.

“The court order has an impact on distributors that have submitted their tariff applications to Nersa without the cost of supply studies. With the leave to appeal having been filed, the Superior Courts Act, 2013 provides that an application for leave to appeal suspends the operation and execution of a decision, pending the outcome of the application. Consequently, Nersa’s decisions still stand and distributors can proceed to implement the approved tariffs while the appeal is being processed,” Hlebela explained.

He did not respond to media enquiries regarding whether Sol Plaatje Municipality had complied with all regulations to enable it to charge higher electricity tariffs or whether ratepayers would be reimbursed should the appeal not succeed.

Sol Plaatje Municipality spokesperson Thabo Mothibi pointed out that the increase fell below the Nersa threshold of 12.78 percent.

“The municipality is part of 178 municipal and private distributors of electricity whose tariff increase applications for the financial year 2024/25 were approved by the energy regulatory authority, as confirmed on June 28. The municipality duly complied with Nersa’s application requirement in having submitted a cost of supply (COS) study,” said Mothibi.

He added that a tariffs reference group had been established to engage on the increase in relation to the price of electricity and other tariffs.

Meanwhile, Sol Plaatje Municipality is offering three prizes as an incentive to ratepayers who settle their outstanding municipal accounts via the online Easypay portal for three consecutive months.

The first prize is a MacBook Air valued at R17,000, with the second prize being an Apple iPad.

Three prize winners will be selected through a random draw on September 30.

* At the time of publication, Makodi provided an update on the meeting convened by Sol Plaatje Municipality.

Makodi said that while the basic and capacity charge was reduced from 121.2 percent to 24 percent at the meeting, it remained unaffordable for the majority of residents.

“The municipality is going ahead with the 10.6 percent increase while anyone with a 60 amp metre will be compelled to pay a basic and capacity charge. Households function on electricity and many people are working from home and cannot be restricted as to how many electronic appliances are used,” said Makodi.

He added that a number of big businesses had walked out of the meeting as they rejected the increases.

“The meeting was held to rubber stamp the increase. Low, middle income and businesses will be adversely affected, while everyone will suffer with higher prices of goods and services.”

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