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Cape Flats residents say they cannot cope with the recent hikes in the electricity tariffs charged by the City of Cape Town (CoCT). The city implemented a 17.6% hike, which kicked in on 1 July, blaming Eskom’s 18.5% increase as a contributing factor.

Last year, communities marched to the city offices to protest the different increases levied by Eskom and by CoCT from 1 April. The increase for those who get electricity directly from Eskom was 9.6% and 8.6% if you who get it from the City of Cape Town.

“The city spends 70% of the income from the tariffs to buy the power from Eskom. This is the biggest cost input. In terms of legislation, the city must be allowed to recover the cost-of-service provision,” said Beverley van Reenen, the city’s Mayoral Committee Member for Energy.

The CoCT supplies the southern and northern suburbs, and the townships of Gugulethu and Langa. The Cape Flats and the townships, under the city, are feeling the increase a bit more than elsewhere.

Feeling the pressure

“I now spend three times more than what I used to spend on electricity,” said Shaen Lawrence, a street vendor in Mitchells Plain. Lawrence added that R10 now gets him 3 units.

Tafelsig resident, Owen Davids, said he spends R50 a day on electricity in his household of 8 people. “One would think we would save with load shedding, but units are disappearing and don’t last. I don’t use gas either because that is an extra expense,” said Davids.

Although the CoCT has tried to alleviate the pressure on lower- and middle-income households, by passing a 52% rates relief increase for all residential properties under R5-million, these households are still feeling the pressure. Pensioner and part-time street vendor, Fozia Peterson said the city installed a new meter box in her house and she got the shock of her life when R20 electricity got her just 5 units.

Peterson was told she no longer qualifies for pensioner’s relief because of the value of her property. “Before I got the new meter box I was on the pensioner’s relief, but now I don’t qualify. The cost of living is too high, and we can’t survive. We don’t even use the geyser anymore or cook every day,” she said.

Gugulethu residents shared the same sentiments, saying the electricity increase is hurting their pockets deeply when it is cold. “I spend about R300 a week on electricity, especially because it is winter. However, when you spend more on electricity, the city sometimes doesn’t give you those 50 free units, because they think you can now afford to spend more on electricity,” said Beauty Stampu from NY5.

Homeowner, Andile Gunya, with two backyarders, says they each contribute R150 to electricity a month which sometimes does not last the whole month. R150 alone now gets him 71 units, whereas before it would get him 98 units.

The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) and the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) condemned the decision by the CoCT to increase the electricity tariffs by more than the Nersa-approved 15.1%. “This is a direct attack and insult against the working class and the poorest of the poor and it is another example that this city is not working for our people,” reads the statement released by Cosatu.