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‘The fight will continue’ — Struggling Cape Town residents vow to push back against electricity price hikes

‘The fight will continue’ — Struggling Cape Town residents vow to push back against electricity price hikes
On Monday, 4 September, Levona Coerecuisa, a 67-year-old pensioner from Retreat, Cape Town, said the tariff dispute had ruined her finances and disrupted her daily life. (Photo: Supplied)

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.

Power To The People march

The Power To The People march on January 25, 2023 in Cape Town,  was sparked by ongoing load shedding and electricity outages. (Photo: Gallo Images/Brenton Geach)

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. 

People are poor, said Henrietta Abrahams, and decision makers at the top don’t feel the pinch because they don’t comprehend the challenges. (Photo: Supplied)

“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


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Steve Davidson says:

    I totally sympathise with the poor, but they’re attacking the wrong people. It’s not the council’s fault -they, like all us city residents, are just as much victims of the ANC and their mates in Nersa and Eksdom who have made such a total stuff up – like everything else they touch – of this country. If you want to see how lucky we are, take a trip to any of the other cities, like Joburg, Pretoria, Durban, and see what nonsense the residents have to put up with there. Maybe all the demonstrators here should rather go and demostrate outside parliament and get those thieves to increase your SASSA grants to help your electricity bill rather than giving CoCT – who are doing an outstanding job against all sorts of odds – so much misplaced grief?!

    And as for Ms Dickson who said “It is evident that the city has no intention of engaging the people in a constructive, sensible, and non-arrogant manner” I suggest you ask yourself if you aren’t the one being a little arrogant? You remind me of a similarly arrogant landlady we had a couple of years ago who tried to con my wife and I into paying an increase on our contribution to the joint house supply of 30% by insisting that as Eksdom had put up their rates by 15% and CoCT by 13% (based on the former, and at you’ll notice at a lower rate, bless them) that’s what we were due to pay (ie the two combined: 1.15 x 1.13 = 1.299 ie ~ 30%) and got really stroppy (and arrogant) when the truth was pointed out to her. Oy vey!

  • A.K.A. Fred says:

    Electricity price hikes are painful and need oversight, I agree. But, this is not a probing article, merely a collection of complaints by various parties. There is no clarification of the disparity between Nersa approved increase (15.1%), City increase implemented (17.6%) and the claimed Eskom increase (18.5%). I surely would like to know why the disparities exist, rather than just read of the protest against the hikes

  • Jon Quirk says:

    The kick back must be correctly aimed, and in this case it must be squarely aimed at the ANC.

    Eskom is mandates to provide electricity to its paying customers. That the ANC, in order to hang onto power and thus enable an extension to its corrupt practices, is allowed to deflect blame to Eskom is shameful … the ANC is wholly accountable.

    We all need desperately, accountable, competent and capable leadership, and in this regard, the ANC need urgently both to step aside and to embrace those who can.

    BEE and cadre deployment, as confirmed by the Zondo Commission, is the absolute death of accountability, efficiency and value for money.

  • Pet Bug says:

    Complete lack of financial understanding by reporter and the quoted residents of the juggling requirements the City has to perform.

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