S AFRICA: Increasing Electricity Tariffs will affect the Poor, Bishops say

PRETORIA, JUNE 19 2015 (CISA) – The Justice and Peace Commission of the Southern African Catholic Bishops’ Conference (SACBC) has challenged the application of the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Eskom) to charge consumers 25 percent more in electricity tariffs saying this will mostly affect the poor.

“The increase in electricity tariffs will influence price hikes in food and other essential products that are used by the poor as the firms pass on their electricity price increases to consumers,” the bishops said in a letter submitted to Eskom, reported SACBC news.

The bishops said that “electricity is a public good that should be accessible to all” and that the 25 percent increase will put electricity out of reach of the poor and will reverse the gains made by government’s efforts to make electricity available to poor.
In the letter signed by Bishop Abel Gabuza of the Catholic Diocese of Kimberley and President of SACBC Justice and Peace Commission the bishops further stated that they were concerned with the high levels of unemployment in South Africa and that increasing electricity tariffs will greatly affect economic growth.

“We believe that the 25 percent increase, will most likely slow economic growth and increase unemployment levels… In the current slow economic environment, the sudden increases in electricity pricing will likely dissuade investment and expansion, especially in such energy-intensive industries,” they said.

SACBC further called for a serious look at the efficiency of the Eskom management.

“The government should be encouraged to set up a national electricity crisis council, made up of broad spectrum of stakeholders that includes civil society and trade unions that should be empowered to develop a pro-poor turnaround plan for Eskom and oversee its implementation.”

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