Zille proposes farmworker power project

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Western Cape farmworkers may benefit from Eskom's free basic electricity grant in the future, provincial premier Helen Zille said. File picture: Dumisani Sibeko

Cape Town - Western Cape farmworkers may benefit from Eskom's free basic electricity grant in the future, provincial premier Helen Zille said in her state-of-the-province speech on Friday.

Addressing the provincial legislature in Cape Town, she said she hoped to roll out a major pilot project in partnership with Eskom in the Hex River Valley next year.

This move followed violent farmworker protests for higher wages and better living conditions at the end of 2012 and the start of 2013.

Workers in two municipalities had since been surveyed to understand their needs.

“One of the main issues raised by farmworkers so far is the fact that they do not qualify for free basic services when living on farms.”

Zille said Eskom traditionally supplied electricity to the farmer, who did not qualify for the free service, with tariffs varying from farm to farm.

She said if the pilot was successful, the province would be the first to provide free basic electricity to farmworkers.

“We have chosen the Hex River Valley area for the pilot project because it comprises 170 farms with approximately 2000 farmworker households, which means a large number of families will benefit from the project, and we will be able to test it at scale.”

A task team comprising Eskom and the local government and agriculture departments had developed a business plan for the project.

It was expected to start in February next year if the necessary R12.5 million funding was secured from the national treasury and the national departments of energy, and rural development and land affairs.

Sapa


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