Why the secrets around smart meters?

Issued by Samantha Graham-Maré MP – DA Shadow Minister of Electricity
06 Nov 2023 in News

Note to editors: Please find attached soundbite by Samantha Graham-Maré MP

On 21 July 2023, I submitted a Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA) request to the office of the Minister of Electricity pertaining to the proposed roll-out and implementation of a smart meter programme that Dr Ramokgopa had espoused during his weekly briefings.  I requested a record of the decision on this, including the minutes of any meetings in which this decision had been taken.  Furthermore, the documents requested needed to reflect the pricing of this strategy, the preferred service provider, the name of the “secret” funder mentioned by the Minister and the proposed roll-out strategy.

Given that the information requested had all been raised in his briefings and that the smart meter programme had been presented as a fait accompli, it can be assumed that this should be readily and easily available.  It appears that this is not the case.

I received feedback from the Minister’s office on 15 August that the matter was receiving attention in terms of the operation of the PAIA and that I would receive the requested information as soon as it was finalized.  While this did not officially comply with the PAIA as a notification of an extension of a further 30 days to address the query, we decided to give them the benefit of doubt. It has now been over 100 days and we have received no word from the Minister.

In the meantime, the Gauteng Provincial Government is rolling out smart meters in Johannesburg following what they deem to be a very successful trial in Fourways.  Rather than referring to it as a smart meter programme, it is being couched euphemistically as a “load-limiting” exercise.

Smart meters allow government to determine access to electricity for households by giving the authorities the power to cut electricity when it is determined that a specific threshold has been reached.  This means that outside of loadshedding, a household could be cut by the Municipality as a mechanism to reduce consumption.

Aside from the questions we have already asked around smart meters, this information has also not been forthcoming as part of the sales pitch for the smart meters programme.

The DA remains increasingly concerned that there are more questions than answers around the smart meters programme and that despite the lack of clarity, the government is proceeding with the programme anyway.  We have subsequently submitted some written questions on this and eagerly await the responses.  We will continue to pursue the answers.

The Minister of Electricity is refusing to provide the answers to the questions that we have asked via the PAIA request which begs the question – who is benefitting from this programme and by how much? Because it does not appear to be the consumers.

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