Sobantu res­i­dents’ pre­paid elec­tric­ity in­creased by 18%

The Witness - - NEWS - KAILENE PILLAY • kailene.pillay@wit­ness.co.za

SOBANTU res­i­dents are ques­tion­ing whether the 18% in­crease on their pre­paid elec­tric­ity to­kens is a “pun­ish­ment” by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity or a sim­ple er­ror in their billing.

Sobantu may be the only area in Msun­duzi where the 18% in­crease was im­ple­mented since July 1 this year.

Msun­duzi mu­nic­i­pal spokesper­son Thobeka Ma­fum­batha said they were in­ves­ti­gat­ing the is­sue of the in­creases and would have an­swers for the me­dia and res­i­dents later in the week.

Sobantu res­i­dent Xolani Dladla said he no­ticed the in­crease in the cost of elec­tric­ity at the be­gin­ning of July this year.

Dladla said upon in­spect­ing his re­ceipts of pur­chase from pre­vi­ous months, he no­ticed some changes.

“I saw that I was no longer on scale two and was moved onto scale three and the price of elec­tric­ity was not the amount we were ini­tially told,” Dladla said.

He said when he checked with his neigh­bours and other peo­ple in the area, the same changes were made on their re­ceipts of pur­chase.

“This is a se­ri­ous prob­lem for me and my house­hold. We ap­proached our coun­cil­lor, who said he will also look into it.

“This is re­ally not fair on Sobantu res­i­dents be­cause peo­ple liv­ing in this area do not earn a lot and should not be pay­ing the most for elec­tric­ity,” he said.

Dladla said he felt the res­i­dents were be­ing “pun­ished” for protest­ing against the 40% de­duc­tion from their pre­paid to­kens last month.

In a tense four­hour stand­off with po­lice last month, Sobantu res­i­dents took to the streets to voice their anger at the “un­law­ ful” blan­ket de­duc­tion on all their pre­paid elec­tric­ity to­kens.

A lo­cal ad­vo­cacy group also added their voice to the fight for Sobantu res­i­dents, say­ing it was “ex­tremely dis­turb­ing” that Sobantu was the only area pay­ing the high price for elec­tric­ity.

Spokesper­son for the Elec­tric­ity Ac­tion Group (EAG), Bonginkosi Sibisi said they had been deal­ing with many res­i­dents who were strug­gling to make ends meet.

Sibisi said the res­i­dents were not told that their tar­iffs would be shifted to a more ex­pen­sive scale.

“Fur­ther­more there ap­pears to be no ra­tio­nale for the shift as noth­ing has changed re­gard­ing how house­holds use elec­tric­ity.

“If any­thing, house­holds now use less elec­tric­ity be­cause the af­ford­abil­ity cri­sis has deep­ened,” Sibisi said.

The shift to a higher scale meant that the pre­paid tar­iff charge of R1,38 per kilo­watt in­creased to R1,63 per kilo­watt.

Sibisi said Sobantu seemed to be an “ex­per­i­men­tal com­mu­nity” where the mu­ nic­i­pal­ity im­ple­ments “pi­lot projects” to test be­fore im­ple­ment­ing them else­where in the city.

Julie Smith from Pi­eter­mar­itzburg Agency for Com­mu­nity So­cial Ac­tion (Pacsa) blamed Msun­duzi Mu­nic­i­pal­ity for “caus­ing a mas­sive af­ford­abil­ity cri­sis”.

“Gov­ern­ment grants in­creased by less than six per­cent this year so how can you jus­tify this in­crease, es­pe­cially for a com­mu­nity that is re­ally strug­gling fi­nan­cially,” Smith asked.

PHOTO: IAN CARBUTT

Sobantu res­i­dent Xolani Dladla with his pre­paid elec­tric­ity re­ceipt show­ing that Sobantu res­i­dents had an 18% in­crease im­ple­mented on their elec­tric­ity tar­iff re­cently.

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