NERSA 18.6% tariff increase must be rejected by all South Africans

Issued by Ghaleb Cachalia MP – DA Shadow Minister of Public Enterprises
12 Jan 2023 in News

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Ghaleb Cachalia MP.

The decision by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) to increase electricity tariffs by 18.65%, despite consumers spending over 120 days in darkness in 2022, with indefinite stage 6 loadshedding already in 2023, is official sanctioned daylight robbery against consumers.

It is time for all South Africans to stand up and say “Enough Is Enough!”.

DA Leader, John Steenhuisen, today wrote to President Cyril Rampahosa, requesting an urgent meeting about Eskom and the growing power crisis.

This tariff increase is now pouring fuel on the fire and the DA believes that this can’t go on any longer. The Party will explore the option of mass action against the incapable ANC-led government.

Instead of acknowledging that overburdened consumers are currently carrying the dead weight of a collapsing Eskom monopoly, NERSA instead chose to protect itself from further litigation by Eskom and agreed to grant this exorbitant electricity price increase.

NERSA essentially abdicated on its statutory obligation to protect consumers from unfair energy pricing and, instead, pandered to the corporate interests of an entity that has completely failed to generate enough electricity to meet demand.

South Africans are already stretched to breaking point due to a high cost of living and this move by NERSA will force many to make the difficult choice of either putting food on the table or pay for non-existent power supply from Eskom. This NERSA/Eskom raid on consumer’s empty pockets is unfair, unjust and cruel because it is asking consumers to pay more for electricity that they don’t have.

Using statistics from our collaborative research effort on residential electricity consumption in South Africa by the Department of Energy and the University of Cape Town, where it was found that households spend an average of R1000 on electricity per month, the latest tariff increase means that they will now be spending R320 more to get even less kWh units on their electricity purchase. This is R320 that will probably have to be taken away from budgets meant for food, transport and other essential household ancillary expenses.

While Eskom is asking consumers to pay more to stay in the dark, it is happy to keep its bloated staff compliment on the payroll despite repeated calls for it to downsize.  In response to a Parliamentary question posed by the DA, the Minister of Public Enterprises, Pravin Gordhan, revealed that ‘…as at September 2022, Eskom had 39 871 employees…’. This is 36% more than the 14,244 that the World Bank advised should be the ideal requirement from which Eskom can continue to function optimally.

Not only are consumers paying the top end salaries of a bloated Eskom staff compliment, they will soon be taking over a huge portion of Eskom’s R400 billion debt. Treasury is currently working to transfer Eskom debt to the country’s sovereign balance sheet – we need to know the terms and conditions of this; they need to be tight.

In making the outrageous decision to award Eskom this unaffordable tariff increase, NERSA appears to have ignored public submissions which were mostly against an increase on the price of electricity. Just as the ANC government has failed to cushion South Africans from the high cost of living, NERSA made the ill-considered decision to allow Eskom to essentially demand more money from consumers over a product they cannot deliver. In the circumstances, these tariffs are unconscionable.