/ 23 April 2008

Jo’burg marchers protest against power tariff hike

About 400 marchers under the banner of the Anti-Privatisation Forum handed over a memorandum to City Power and Eskom in Johannesburg on Wednesday in protest against a proposed 53% hike in electricity tariffs.

The protesters called for the immediate resignation of Eskom managers and demanded a halt to proposed bonuses to management.

Forum spokesperson Silumko Radebe condemned the proposed increase. ”The proposed tariff hike will negatively affect the living standards of poor households and will be at odds with efforts to reduce poverty,” he said.

City Power manager Vicky Shuping, who received the memorandum on behalf of her organisation, said she would give it to the mayor and discuss the demands with him.

The protesters sang derogatory songs about Johannesburg mayor Amos Masondo, saying he did not have the courage to face the protesters and address their issues.

An elderly protester, Sarafina Motsopa, said the residents of Soweto were let down by Masondo as he had not come out in support of the poor.

Earlier, the protesters marched to the Department of Minerals and Energy, Eskom and City Power to hand over their memorandums.

They demanded that the public hearings on the electricity increases be made accessible for the poor to attend in their own communities, as opposed to the offices of the National Energy Regulator of South Africa in Pretoria.

Radebe said 30% of South Africans cannot afford electricity and the rise in prices will force people to use alternative energy sources such as paraffin, coal and biomass.

”These will have enormous financial and social consequences. The total cost to the economy of paraffin-related accidents is R100-billion a year. Our children are scarred for life because Eskom refuses to supply electricity to the poor,” he said.

Radebe said the 50kWh free electricity allocation to the poor should be raised to 100kWh per person monthly. Other demands are for the scrapping of subsidised electricity for foreign corporations under the development electricity pricing programme.

The protesters also called for the abolishment of pre-paid electricity meters in poor communities.

Radebe said Eskom, City Power, the Minerals and Energy Department and the municipality have seven working days to answer to the forum’s demands before further action will be taken. — Sapa