No-win situation for KZN’s poor as Eskom proposes crippling tariff hikes

George Mari, MPP

DA KZN Spokesperson on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA)

IF approved, Eskom’s submission of a 16% electricity tariff hike – each year for the next five years – is set to have devastating consequences for KwaZulu-Natal’s poorest citizens, many of whom are already facing extreme hardship.

The proposed increase – almost triple the current inflation rate – comes as millions of rands are lost every month in this province as a result of illegal connections.

Recent attempts to deal with this massive problem include the recently begun process of providing electrification to informal settlements. This is done on the basis that that those informal settlement dwellers earning an income will pay a portion of the fee and the balance will be subsidised. The question is – given that the cost of electricity is already beyond the reach of many, how will they ever manage to pay the figures that Eskom is proposing? Not only will the suggested increase put paid to attempts to recover costs – sending the province’s outstanding debt spiralling – the move will also encourage the use of illegal connections leading to further tragic and avoidable loss of life.

All in all, it’s a no-win situation for these communities. Meanwhile, Eskom’s elite continue to rake in six figure salaries and inflated performance bonuses.

Further plans to cross-subsidise the cost of this service – by ensuring that the wealthy pick up some of the tab – are also set to flop as prohibitive electricity costs see more people turn to green energy sources, leaving the pot half empty for funding of this nature.

Rather than punishing the poorest of the poor, the focus must shift to reducing the number of illegal connections as an alternative to crippling tariff hikes.

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