The Energy Summit and NERSA Public Hearings are just a talk-shop


Friday 16 May 2008 by Ahmed

The Anti Privatisation Forum attended the Energy Summit on the 16th May 2008 and the ongoing NERSA Public Hearings on the 23rd & 27th May 2008 in regards to ESKOM’s proposed 53% tariff increase. It is clear that these processes were necessary to find a common solution to the current energy crisis in the country so that there could be a common vision.

But as the APF, we would like to make it clear that the voices of the poor are not listened to by the government and big business in the process. The Energy Summit took a resolution to propose a smooth tariff increase over a period of five years and organised labour agreed with these resolutions.

Public Enterprises Minister Alec Erwin had suggested in his budget vote speech in parliament that the government must consider support of the sudden tariff hike and that they are in favour of a less controversial solution to the energy crisis (a proposal for the government injection of R60 billion to Eskom to be increased to R120 billion to cater for a smoothed tariff increase). The final agreement by the Energy Summit was a collective submission that was sent to NERSA in order to influence the public participation process around the proposed tariff hike. The submission is calling for a gradual increase in tariffs over the next five years. The government Public Enterprises Director General Portia Molefe said that government agreed with such an approach, but stressed that it was critical that the wholesale tariff reach 46c per kWh by 2011/12. At present Eskom’s blended costs are around 22c per kWh.

As the APF we don’t agree with the declaration of the Summit and all the resolutions taken in the summit. The voices of the poor are ignored and we have taken a resolution that we are against any tariff increases for any period. The ANC General Secretary Gwede Mantashe asked the energy summit if energy is a public or a private good and with that in consideration, it would influence the development path that the summit will take. In all the commissions, this issue was not discussed in full and it was a fundamental question that needed to be given enough time for discussion. It is clear that the socio-economic imperatives were ignored by the summit in taking a decision and this is the same attitude taken in the NERSA public hearings. The focus is about meeting the economic needs of a small minority at the expense of the needs of the vast majority, where profits triumph over basic human needs. There are no plans or programmes in place to ensure that the 30% of our people who don’t have access to electricity get electricity at an affordable tariff. ESKOM/government continue to fail those who have been disconnected in the past because of affordability. It is not the poor and the workers who must be made to pay for for ESKOM’s incompetence and greed..

South Africa’s macro-economic policies have failed the majority of people in our country over the past fourteen years and despite the protests and voices of the poor, who have been most affected, being raised time and again, government has failed to listen. Anger and frustration have been building up to boiling point - it is this environment that incubates hatred and violence.

If government and the small minority of elites who continue to exercise dominant political and socio-economic power in this country continue to ignore the underlying socio-economic conditions in poor communities, and treat their protests and grievances with contempt, we are headed for further explosions. We can’t sustain the rising levels of inequality and greed and we certainly can’t sustain the continuation of policies that have utterly failed the majority of those who live in South Africa.

As the APF we demand that ESKOM and the government that is supposed to own and control it, to step back from their present path and put in place an electricity and energy policy that prioritises the needs of the poor majority and penalises the crass and wasteful consumption of the corporate elite. We must not allow the voices of our people to be lost, once again, within these kind of processes.

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