The proposed hike of pre-paid electricity tariffs by the City of Johannesburg has been met with shock and outrage by residents. The City is proposing a new R200 basic charge for prepaid residential customers and R400 for prepaid business customers.

This increase will result in a household that uses an estimated 350 units a month, going from paying R450 to about R700 per month, excluding VAT, if the proposal is accepted by council.

While South Africa battles against the COVID-19 pandemic, Joburg residents and business owners who use pre-paid electricity have been dealt another blow as they may be in for a steep increase in their monthly bill.

According to the City of Joburg, the new charges are aimed at closing the gap between prepaid and conventional electricity users. Spokesperson for the City Nthatisi Modingoane explains the proposed plan.

“The idea as put in the proposed tariffs currently is that they make a minimum contribution of R200 which will be the first, that’s why people are thinking it’s a big number. But the conventional meter owners have been paying in the range of R500 every month to sustain the maintenance of the infrastructure. So we are proposing that to say how do we get everybody so that in Joburg everyone does make a contribution to bulk infrastructure and the maintenance and upgrade and so forth,” explains Modingoane.

Joburg property owners who are currently using prepaid electricity meters have expressed outrage about the possible hike. Concerned resident Ronald Pillay says the tariff hike is completely unacceptable.

“I am honestly shocked and appalled at finding out this news. As it is electricity prices are so high. What I pay for my prepaid is now doubling and especially with this lockdown being around I really wouldn’t have money to spend on electricity so this is absurd, I really won’t stand for this increase in electricity,” says Pillay.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, thousands of South Africans are still unable to work and earn an income – while the country remains under Level 3 of the nationwide lockdown. This has resulted in major financial burdens for many, who are now battling to make ends meet.

Joburg resident Thabo Sithole hasn’t earned an income since the start of the lockdown. He says if the tariff increase is approved, it will be impossible for him to purchase electricity.

“We are not at work at the moment, we are staying at home because of this COVID-19 so this increase, where will we get that money from. It’s too bad, they must change their plan and at least do something about it because people are not working and they must drop the charges because we are not working at all, we are staying at home,” says Sithole.

However, there is still a bit of hope for pre-paid customers. City spokesperson Nthatisi Modingoane says they will be accepting alternate submissions from the public before a final decision is made.

“People might come and say to the city that this is not the route to follow and maybe there is another route that they would want or prefer in terms of making sure that everybody contributes to the provision of bulk services. So we are saying it’s a draft and we want to emphasise that and we are saying that people must make their submissions and then those submissions will be looked into and we will discuss the final tariffs once they have gone through council and been approved,” says Modingoane.