Khalid Mather speaks on behalf of the KwaDukuza (Stanger) community. Picture: Nqobile Mbonambi

Durban - Irate consumers, who aren’t able to do much more belt tightening, have told a National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) hearing in Durban they’re battling to cope with rising costs.

The two-day hearing was aimed at garnering reaction to Eskom’s 19.9% proposed electricity tariff hike in 2018.

Representatives from Phoenix, Sydenham, Chatsworth, KwaDukuza (Stanger), Illovu, eMkhomazi (Umkomaas) and Mariannhill took to the podium on Thursday, while members from the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) picketed outside the venue the following day to show their opposition to the proposed hike.

The alliance’s Desmond D’sa said: “The Durban voice is important. We need renewable energy, which is affordable and removes the poor off the grid and this will result in everyone having access to energy rather than a few. South Africa, with its high unemployment rate, can ensure change happens.”

He continued: “Our argument is that 17 of the major energy users are big industries and they must pay for any increases.

“Nersa must demand payback of the monies that were given to senior (Eskom) executives through golden handshakes or increase pension and bonuses,” D’sa said.

“Nersa has the authority to ensure that ordinary people are not the cash cows for the elites and they must put a stop to the massive fraud of the poor taking place under their watch.”

Khalid Mather, who spoke on behalf of the KwaDukuza community, did a presentation on why South Africa should adopt renewable energy, which would save on resources and was cost efficient.

“Eskom is burdening us with this increase. They need to reinstate and revitalise the Renewable Energy Independent Power Producer Procurement Programme and say no to hikes.”

David Naicker, of eMkhomazi, said: “Most of our communities are poor, unemployed or pensioners and simply cannot afford any price hikes. People are barely surviving on the little money they have. How will they manage with added expenses?”

A member of the KZN Subsistence Fishing Forum, Munsami Naicker, of Phoenix, said: “As a fisherman and a pensioner, I find it harder every day to make ends meet. If this increase is approved, how will I provide for myself and my family? So, I say no to this increase.”

Nersa’s executive manager Mbulelo Ncetezo, who was part of the panel, said he was impressed with the response from community representatives.

He told POST the feedback would help Nersa in making a decision.

“The outcome from the public has been good,” said Ncetezo, who added that 23000 people had thus far stepped forward with comments.

“This will definitely help us in making our decision, especially when we see people come forward and admit they are battling to make ends meet. I am impressed with some of the presentations from the community,” he said.

“There are, however, a few things they need clarification on, like their rights to a percentage of basic electricity, and as regulators, it is our job to inform them of this.”

He clarified that the proposed 19.9% increase was an average increase for Eskom and would be different for the public.

“If we approve this, Eskom still has to go into the retail tariff adjustments, which will show how much Eskom will recoup from different categories of customers.

“For example, industrial, residential and commercial will be the heart of the adjustments. What we approve is just the average. But the retail prices will go directly to the customer. This will only come into effect after our decision is made.”

Eskom’s general manager for regulation, Hasha Tlhotlhalemaje, said it was important for residents to understand how they would be affected.

“We do understand the complications that residents and various community groups have to deal with, but we need to clarify and distinguish that municipal customers are different from Eskom customers. While some speakers today addressed their grievances, it is important to note that not everyone are Eskom customers. Nonetheless, we are grateful for the feedback we are getting and are cognisant of every concern.”

Hearings commenced in Cape Town and Port Elizabeth last week and will continue in five other cities.

Nersa’s decision is expected to be made on December 7.