Joburg mayor says R200 prepaid electricity surcharge here to stay

Johannesburg mayor Kabelo Gwamanda announces new fairness focused electricity surcharge for pre-paid users. File Picture: Itumeleng English / Independent Newspapers

Johannesburg mayor Kabelo Gwamanda announces new fairness focused electricity surcharge for pre-paid users. File Picture: Itumeleng English / Independent Newspapers

Published Jul 5, 2024


The Mayor of Johannesburg, Kabelo Gwamanda, says the controversial R200 electricity surcharge for residents using pre-paid electricity is here to stay.

The prepaid surcharge which had been planned since 2018, aims to help fund the city’s new electricity infrastructure and maintain existing systems.

Its implementation was delayed due to the economic challenges brought by COVID-19.

Gwamanda explained that this prepaid surcharge is essential for fairness as post-paid electricity were already paying extra service fees.

"The new electricity surcharge is a necessary intervention to create fairness and equality in the city's tariffs regime," Mayor Gwamanda said.

"Post-paid customers have been paying the surcharge and only pre-paid customers were excluded. What the introduction of the surcharge now seeks to do, is to end the unfair subsidisation of pre-paid customers by post-paid customers."

The city followed a thorough consultation process in all wards, engaging with residents and their representatives before approving the new tariff.

Despite some opposition, the mayor stressed the importance of using tariffs effectively to meet the growing population and economic needs of Johannesburg.

Gwamanda slammed the Democratic Alliance (DA) for trying to create public opposition to the surcharge for political gain.

"The DA and its stooges are opportunistically sensationalising a sensitive matter that concerns us all. They are attempting to subvert council decisions by arousing public sentiment under false pretences to gain political mileage."

The mayor highlighted that maintaining the old system is unfair and unsustainable, as it creates a two-tier system where only post-paid customers pay extra fees.

"Any attempt to sabotage this critical intervention is an attempt to deliberately collapse the city's infrastructure and to maintain the injustice of creating a two-tier tariff dispensation where post-paid customers pay and pre-paid customers don’t.

“The split between post-paid and pre-paid customers in the city is approximately 50:50 and as such we cannot with good conscience disadvantage one customer base in the interests of the other," said Gwamanda.

This week, several DA councillors in the City of Johannesburg have been spreading in WhatsApp groups that it was the ANC, EFF, PA and Al-Jama-ah, who voted for the implementation of the surcharge.

One of these was from Ward 134 Councillor Devon Steenkamp, who said in one WhatsApp group.

“We have been receiving numerous inquiries regarding the recent tariff increases and surcharges on electricity. To clarify, as the DA we rejected these tariffs and the increase on council record and is available to view on YouTube for the public, however, it was still passed by majority of other parties in Council.

“Since we are not in government, we unable justify these charges set out by the current ANC/EFF/ PA and Al jama-ah government and therefore they need to answer which we eagerly waiting for a answer on,” he said.

Steenkamp said the extra charges were to “ensure a sufficient supply of energy is available on the power grid during "peak" hours of electricity usage”.

“Essentially, you are paying a fee to ensure that the electricity you might eventually use is there for you when you need it.

“Pre-paid customers haven't been paying these charges, unlike postpaid customers where these fees are over R1000 a month.

“City Power is technically bankrupt, with debts around R20 billion and losses of about R500 million to R1 billion a month,” he said.

Steenkamp said the power utility was "too big to fail" and the City of Johannesburg had set aside R9.4 billion from the 2024/25 budget to cover their losses.

“As a result, they are desperate for money, hence the need to start charging these fee to recoup their losses,” he said.

The city is making efforts to educate residents about the new tariff and encourages everyone to familiarise themselves with the changes.