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Electricity to go up on April 1

It is not an April Fool's joke. Lowvelders, like the rest of the country, can expect their electricity bills to increase.

Mbombela’s residents have been receiving the short end of the stick for years now due to constant power cuts that disrupt their day-to-day living.

Gone are the days when you planned how to get your day job done. Now, how to get your work done without electricity is the question on everyone’s lips. How am I going to feed the family? And will there be hot water to at least bath the kids?

As the situation currently stands, residents have to fork out extra hundreds of rand per month for sky-high power bills despite load-shedding. And now, to add insult to injury, Eskom and the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) slapped residents with the shocking announcement that electricity prices will increase by 18.65% as from April 1.

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At first one could have described this as an April Fool’s joke, but the reality is consumers will have to dig deeper into their pockets to carry the bucket for the failings of Eskom as well as the City of Mbombela (CoM). “The 18.65% tariff increase granted to Eskom by Nersa will come into effect on July 1. That’s what Eskom will bill municipalities, but they will make their own applications that will not be less than the 18.65% increase as already granted to Eskom,” said Cllr Sibongile Makushe-Mazibuko, the municipality’s mayor.

“What Nersa will approve for the CoM will then unfortunately be billed to our customers. We do not know what Nersa will approve for the municipality and can only hope that it doesn’t leave us with a deficit as it had for the previous financial years. This current financial year, Eskom got over 9% when we only got just over 7%,” she said.

Cllr Robert Dlamini, caucus leader of the DA on the council, said with the budget currently being prepared for the 2023/24 financial year, an extremely fine and serious juggling of figures will have to be done to ensure residents are not punished unnecessarily. “The City of Mbombela is affected by the rolling blackouts being implemented by Eskom. This situation does not only affect the provision of electricity supply, thereby killing businesses, but it also negatively affects the City’s ability to provide other services like the purification and reticulation of water,” said Joseph Ngala, the spokesperson for the municipality.

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He added that the City has been engaging with Eskom in this regard for purposes of doing its own load-shedding to some of its substations in order to minimise the effect on critical infrastructure like water treatment works. “It must be noted that most of the schedules, especially load reduction, are unannounced or precommunicated as Eskom is trying to manage their load demand. “This phenomenon started on December 7, when even substations that were not part of the load-shedding schedule were unilaterally switched off and upon investigation, it was then that we were informed of the load reduction process, which we had hope was just a once-off exercise.

“Subsequent to the initial meeting, with load reduction being implemented over and above the load-shedding schedules, the City wrote to Eskom on December 23, seeking clarity on the continuation of this load reduction and until now, no response has been forthcoming.”

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