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By Gerhard Papenfus

There are two responses to the 18.65% electricity tariff for Eskom approved by Nersa.

The one is an attitude of resignation: relieved that the increase was not 32% as Eskom requested, resigned to the fact that Eskom is in trouble and there is nothing we can do about it. Suck it up and pay the bills.

The other response is one of righteous discontent. This attitude asks how did we get here and demands a way forward that will drastically address the current crisis. 

Although South Africa is not a failed state yet, the state’s trajectory is clearly in that direction.

Government’s failure to sustain the essential elements of a functioning state, such as sound leadership which inspires respect, integrity in governance, safety and security, and the maintaining of infrastructure, is most visible in the collapse of Eskom. 

The deterioration of every aspect for which Government is responsible, is there for all to see. The electricity situation, however, highlights the dilemma in which we find ourselves.

Eskom, the overstaffed, incompetent utility, stripped financially through fraud and corruption and devoid of skills and loyalty through cadre deployment and race-based employment policies, is allowed to increase its price by 18.65%. This is a huge increase which will hurt consumers, those few that actually pay their electricity bills.

Eskom argues that, without this increase, it cannot survive. Ironically, it completely disregards the survival of the South African consumer. If the consumer was of any concern to compromised politicians and corrupt Eskom employees, of the ‘mafia’ currently controlling Eskom, South Africa would not have been in this situation.

Therefore, what the South African consumer wants to know is this: since detrimental policies, corruption and inefficiency brought us to our current predicament, how are things going to improve, even with this increase, if the policies, corruption and inefficiency remain? Consumers have no option; we will have to pay more, but it is unlikely that we will receive anything in return. 

Increases will not drag Eskom out of the pit it finds itself in; only strong, uncompromising leadership, ethical governance, which include the rooting out of corruption and those involved in it, from the highest to the lowest level, and employment policies based on merit, will achieve it. 

There is still no sign that this is about to happen and, therefore, until that happens, it will be more of the same, a constant downward spiral until the ultimate disaster strikes. The current political leadership neither has the political will, nor the political reserves to change the current trajectory.

The purpose of this is not to elaborate on the hardship already experienced by business, individuals and households, but only to say this: we refuse to accept that an increase is the solution to Eskom’s problems, as additional income will still flow to corrupt individuals and incompetent municipalities who refuse to settle their bills with Eskom.

Gerhard Papenfus is the Chief Executive of the National Employers’ Association of South Africa (NEASA).

For more information:
NEASA Media Department