Day two of the public hearings on Eskom’s proposal to increase electricity tariffs by 16% annually for the next five years began promptly on Thursday morning, but despite the best efforts of the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) to accommodate the presentations of all concerned parties, the overwhelming majority of which are opposed to the tariff hikes, the regulator has had to extend the duration of public hearing by a day. Cosatu maintained its presence throughout the hearing, with supporters of the trade union federation protesting outside the venue, while others sat in on the hearings and listened to the debate.
Food security was a pressing consideration at the hearing, with Johan Pienaar, deputy chief executive officer of agriculture trade association AgriSA Africa, weighing in to explain the negative effects on food security such an increase would have. Pienaar said the proposed electricity price increase – along with the looming increased water tariff, the rising cost of diesel and the expected 15% increase in farmworkers’ wages after the strikes in the Western Cape – would place South Africa’s food security at risk.
Pienaar explained that the food industry would not be able to survive such big increases. Farmers would be crippled by operating costs and income derived from exports would fall with the loss of the sector’s competitive edge. “The reality is that the economy at large, and the agriculture sector, won’t be able to survive such hefty increases,” he said.