‘The fight will continue’ — Struggling Cape Town residents vow to push back against electricity price hikes
The city’s response to a memorandum complaining about electricity tariffs has not placated protesters.
‘Everything goes wrong when the lights go down, and everyone around me becomes hungry,” said a 37-year-old resident of District Six, Cape Town, detailing how much of a burden the increase in electricity costs has become on his daily routine.
The struggle over the electricity rate increases is ongoing, with many Capetonians still feeling the pinch as a result of the city’s 17.6% increase.
Ibrahim Agmaat, a 37-year-old resident of Cape Town’s District Six, has been struggling, especially after the City increased power tariffs above Nersa’s 15.1% threshold from July.
Agmaat was on the front lines of a civil demonstration that took part at the Civic Centre, on Saturday 26 August. He said he now spends a lot of money on electricity but does not get to utilise it.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Capetonians take to the street to voice their grievances about the 17.6% rise in electricity prices
“This is completely unfair and makes no sense. I’m paying for something that’s always going up in price, but the units are not worth what I pay for.
“This is a problem when the lights go off because I can no longer afford to purchase electricity, everything goes wrong and everyone around me gets hungry. There are newborns that require formula and other necessities, but we cannot make or afford them with all this current tariff increase.
“I believe it is time the city understands that it is a service provider to residents in and around Cape Town. It should not overcharge and focus on collecting for its own interests while ignoring the needs of the people,” he said.
‘The fight will continue’
Protesters are determined to continue fighting the increase after dissatisfaction with the memorandum response by the City of Cape Town.
The primary cause for the tariff rise, according to the city’s reply, was Eskom’s 18.5% increase. According to the city:
- The city’s tariff increase is driven by Eskom’s 18.5% increase.
- A portion of electricity sales is ring-fenced as a contribution towards streetlights and other rates-funded services.
- Customers on the Home User tariff (property value over R1-million) pay a fixed electricity charge, but also pay less per unit.
- This is not within the city’s power to change as VAT is a national government competency.
Sandra Dickson, the founder of Stop COCT, told Daily Maverick that they will battle the financial hardship of the electricity rise in any way they can despite the city’s decision to keep the additional 2.5% increase.
“It is evident that the city has no intention of engaging the people in a constructive, sensible, and non-arrogant manner. However, we will continue to fight our battle by all means necessary. As we await to see what happens in the case COCT (City of Cape Town) made against Nersa with the 17.6% increase.”
The fight will continue, and numerous groups will set aside their differences and speak with one voice, Dickson said.
City of Cape Town pins blame on Nersa, Eskom
On 2 September, the city responded to the memorandum that was handed to three officials from the Mayor’s office at the Civic Centre during the protest march on 26 August.
“The city’s policies and budgets are subject to extensive public participation and various channels exist for residents to engage with both the city and mayor on an ongoing basis,” the city responded.
“The price increase is driven by Eskom’s 18.5% rise, as well as the requirement, based on a detailed Cost of Supply calculation, to ensure that the tariff covers the cost of providing electricity service, infrastructure investment, and plans to stop load shedding.
“The city has further made use of public participation to oppose the annual Eskom increases on behalf of residents, after Nersa approved the unacceptably high Eskom increase. And then disallow the flow-through of this increase from municipalities to customers.”
Read more in Daily Maverick: Nersa approves 18.65% Eskom tariff hike for 2023/24 and 12.74% for the following financial year
‘Can’t afford many necessities’
Levona Coerecuisa, a 67-year-old pensioner, living in Retreat, said the battle has crippled her budget and impacted her everyday life.
“This sudden increase in electricity… forced me to cut short my use of the geyser, meaning I don’t have a geyser anymore, the impact eventually led to us using the kettle on a schedule. I can’t afford many necessities right now.
“I can no longer buy bread. We live solely to keep the lights on. The city should stop further increases and openly justify its large bank balance,” Coerecuisa told Daily Maverick.
She added, “The electricity tariff increase is truly crushing us, it is leaving us poorer than ever before. It is really stressful because we don’t get enough money to sustain us the whole month. Our daily lives are difficult,” she said.
Henrietta Abrahams from the Women’s Assembly, said people are poor and decision-makers at the top don’t feel the pinch because they don’t understand the problems that people face.
“Our women are poor, and the city’s decision-makers do not live our lives or experiences, so they are ignorant of the difficulties we face. They don’t care about us,” said Abrahams.
“We have already protested to express our deep concerns. We urged the city to comply and understand that the people are suffering. Our reality is more difficult than what they believe, and the battle is not over yet,” DM