Victory for those who protested the Eskom application for a 25.3% electricity tariff increase

Category : PACSA news

The Pietermaritzburg march to protest a further 253 increase in electricity tarriffs

The National Energy Regulators’ rejection of ESKOM’s application for a further tariff increase this year has averted a pending crisis facing South African consumers and our economy. This rejection is a victory for all those who mobilised in the call to protest this application because electricity tariffs have already breached affordability thresholds.   In Pietermaritzburg the mobilisation was led by the ‘Stop Eskom’s 25% Increase Coalition’, a coalition of 19 organisations, which included citizens, civic organisations, CBOs, religious groups, small businesses, unions, student movements, NGOs, social justice and political groups.

Pictures of the march

The story of the mobilisation and coalition formation started with PACSA inviting everyone in the city to a meeting to think through how we could all protest against Eskom’s application.   At this meeting on the 2nd of June everyone who attended the meeting agreed that we needed to take physical protest action to stop the increase. A coalition was formed (called the Stop Eskom’s 25% Increase Coalition) which included membership from across a broad spectrum of Pietermaritzburg society, including: religious groups, unions, citizens, community based organisations and NGOs, small businesses, civics, student movements and political groupings. We agreed that we would unite against the ‘what’ which was to stop Eskom’s increase and that we would put the ‘how’ (our ideological differences) aside. We found agreement however on the issue of why – broadly – which was that we could not afford the increase and that the increase would reverberate through the cost of all goods and services (not just domestic electricity) and that it would have a devastating impact on households and across the economy. The coalition stood together in solidarity against the increase.   The coalition worked together in unity on the principle that the increase would affect everybody and so we needed to work in a way which included everybody’s thinking and everybody’s voice. We would be inclusive and work for dignity, equity and justice now. We worked together on a common goal to stop Eskom’s 25% increase and planned and mobilised in a way where we would all assist one another and share what we had to make it work. On the 23rd of June more than 1200 people joined the march. It was something extraordinary. People and groups who would never typically march together; marched together. Everybody who marched was conscious of why they were marching and wanted to be there. The marchers included people and groups from across the city with their different political affiliations, different ideological reasons for protesting, we had different races, religions and ages – the oldest to the youngest were there. The mood was peaceful, stoic but also emancipatory. At the podium, we opened in a prayer that spoke of justice and most of the speakers were women who were at the brunt of the struggle and could articulate the struggle best. The memoranda were handed over by two members of the Electricity Action Group – Gog’Mofokeng and Gog’Mbasa – both in their 70s who, before they signed, rebuked Msunduzi Municipality and Eskom in a way that only two old women can. It was delicious.   After the protest 7 members of the coalition got in a kombi and drove all the way to Johannesburg to hand over the memorandum, submit all 4240 petitions and make a presentation at the public hearings to NERSA on the 24th June. Gog’Mofokeng’s impassioned presentation for NERSA to reject Eskom’s application was delivered in isiZulu and in a quiet powerful voice. The 7 members of the coalition carried all the Pietermaritzburg voices protesting the increase to Joburg and were heard. On the 29th June NERSA turned down Eskom’s application for a 25.3% increase.   We were part of something amazing, something extraordinary, something bigger then ourselves, something which impacted on everybody. We did it with humility and love and certainly with patience and grace and a great deal of humour. The coalition and all the planning and actions were founded on solidarity. We recalled that we could speak and then worked very carefully to make sure that everybody had the space to speak and that those that struggle most acutely; were at the forefront of the struggle. NERSA’s decision averted a crisis. Eskom’s financing challenges must be addressed but it cannot be by pushing the majority of us deeper into poverty, entrenching inequality and increasing unemployment.   Pietermaritzburg refused. We said no. And it was beautiful. NERSA heard our position and the strength of our mobilisation led to them rejecting further increases. This is a victory for mass mobilisation and will have a positive impact on households and small business in South Africa. The organisations that were part of the coalition are the following:
ALUTA
COSATU PMB Local
Children in Distress (CINDI)
Eastwood Community Forum (ECF)
Edi Training and Community Development
Electricity Action Group
Gay and Lesbian Network
groundWork
Justice and Women (JAW)
KwaZulu-Natal Civil Society Organisation Coalition (KZNSCOC)
Lifeline PMB
Midlands Christian Council
NUMSA PMB Local
PMB4Palestine
Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (PACSA)
Project Empower
Scottsville Residents & Ratepayers Association
United Front KwaZulu-Natal

Pictures of the march 2
Pictures of the march 3

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