Johannesburg - Another month, another petrol price increase, another notch in the belt.
Remember last month? The reports were already there on January 1: “Bittersweet start to the year as petrol price rises”, read one headline.
And now, just a month later, we inlanders have a record high: R13.96 per litre of 95-octane unleaded petrol.
The increase comes just days after the Reserve Bank raised the interest rate by 50 basis points and motorists start feeling the impact of the e-toll system.
A 42-year-old debtor supervisor, who wanted to be known only by her first name, Nolwandle, said she was already feeling the pinch.
“One has to live and it’s quite difficult because the price of everything goes up but our salaries stay the same,” said the mother-of-three. “You end up earning less than your expenses, whereas before the increases you could afford them.”
The Joburger feels that the petrol hikes and food price increases affect her children unfairly.
“Your children suffer because you have to take them to a cheaper school where the education isn’t at the standard that you want. As much as we try to live within our means, it’s difficult,” she said.
“If I’m struggling, what about the people who don’t earn the amount that I do? If I feel that groceries are too expensive, how do they feel? We really can’t cope.”
Michael Hlangebi echoed her sentiments. The 36-year-old felt that his salary can hardly sustain him anymore.
“All these increases are making us poorer,” said the Telkom technical officer.
“There’s no more money for entertainment, and things like cheese and milk have become luxury items. You can’t do things like going out to eat with your family.”
Hlangebi, who is married and has two children, feels that the cost of living in South Africa is becoming too steep.
“Life is just getting harder and harder. We can’t even afford to pay these e-tolls because we’re already in debt.
“With the petrol price going up, we’ll have to organise lift clubs because you can’t afford to drive on these roads alone these days,” he added.
On Tuesday, the AA warned that the petrol price could reach R16 a litre of 95 octane if the rand continued its decline against the dollar.
Meanwhile, international petroleum prices have ticked up slightly since the AA’s previous review of fuel price trends in mid-January, so it’s a double whammy for motorists, the AA said.
Mike Schussler, the director of economists.co.za, disagreed: “R15, I think, is very likely, R16 will come but not now.”
He said motorists should expect about another 20c increase in the next two months.
The rand hit five-year lows against the dollar at R11.38 and against the euro at R15.50 last week, which was one of the major causes of the petrol hike.
“One cent was for the oil price; the other 38c, basically put, was the actual price of the rand. Many markets are seeing a decrease; we are seeing an increase in the petrol price,” Schussler said.
But the AA also expressed concern that last year’s credit data showed that almost half of credit-active consumers had an impaired credit record.
“We believe it will be very difficult for such people to absorb the effects of ongoing fuel price increases,” the AA said.
New father Letlhogonolo Phokela is afraid for the future of his 15-month-old daughter in today’s high-cost climate.
“Between rent and looking after my child it’s hard to enjoy life without worrying. Whenever petrol prices go up, (the price of) nappies go up,” said the 26-year-old sales consultant.
“I basically can’t afford to do anything anymore. I can’t eat out. I can only eat beef or chicken because they’re most affordable. Vegetables are expensive. I used to buy six tomatoes for R3,” he said.
“You must watch your wallet, have a budget and stick to it religiously.
“A lot of us want to buy homes one day, but how can we when basic things like travelling are expensive? It’s tough!”
How much more will this cost you?
* Example 1: You own a small vehicle, let’s say a Polo Vivo 1.6 Trendline. Your petrol tank holds about 45 litres – so it’s going to cost you an extra R17.55 to fill up your tank, for a total of R628.20.
* Example 2: You own a big vehicle, maybe a Mercedes-Benz C180, so your tank is a lot bigger – 66 litres. You’re going to have to pay an extra R25.74. And your total’s inching ever closer to a frightening grand – filling up will now cost you R921.36.
* Example 3: You’re a registered e-toll user and are on a one-way trip from the Joburg CBD into the Pretoria CBD, a distance of about 60km. Every car has a different fuel economy, but let’s say yours is around 6.6 litres per 100km. You’ll end up using about 3.96 litres on your drive. Your petrol costswill now be about R55.30, up by about R1.50 from last month.
But let’s not forget e-tolls. Let’s say you journey on the N1 all the way until joining the N14 at Brakfontein. That’s an extra R11.84 in e-tolls, or R6.12 if you’re a registered user*. Your total for this basic one-way trip between the two cities will range from about R61.42 to R67.14.
* Example 4: Only, this is no one-way trip. You travel between the Joburg and Pretoria city centres every workday. Twice. So what will a 20-day working month cost you (with all the above assumptions)? About R2 500.
* Figures calculated using Sanral’s e-toll calculator, http://tollcalc.sanral.co.za/etoll/
** All prices calculated using the Reef rates for 95-octane unleaded petrol.
– Additional reporting by Brendan Roane and Anna Cox