‘Power hikes a new form of apartheid’

Cosatu says poor blacks will be denied a basic service because they cannot afford the price hikes.

Cosatu says poor blacks will be denied a basic service because they cannot afford the price hikes.

MIDRAND - Eskom's proposed electricity tariff hike is a new form of apartheid, the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu)'s Dumisani Dakile said on Wednesday.

The union made the comments at the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa)'s public hearings into the parastatal's proposed tariff hikes in Midrand, north of Johannesburg.

Eskom wants Nersa to grant it a 16 percent tariff increase per year, for the next five years.

But Dakile believes poor blacks will be denied a basic service because they cannot afford the price increases.

He said one of Nersa's responsibilities was to protect the vulnerable consumer.

Dakile went on to say the regulator must ensure that the poor are not denied access to power.

At the same time, Eskom CEO Brian Dames also said he was concerned about the impact the hike would have on the poor.

"Yes, this concerns me. It's very important that all stakeholders sit around the table and see how best to strike a balance."

The CEO added the potential impact on consumers was also a worrying factor.

"We must not make short-term decisions that will impact the fundamental growth of the country's long-term aspirations."

Dames ruled out an inflation-linked increase, because Eskom's operational costs are well above that figure.

The power utility was also warned about the effects of the hikes on small business.

According to the Small Business Forum's Tebogo Khaas, a steep hike will stifle job creation.

"If price increases of the order that Eskom is applying for were to be approved, we might as well kiss [goodbye] any interns or initiatives aimed at encouraging new entrants."