THE Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber said on Wednesday it “rejected” Eskom’s proposed third multiyear price determination for electricity tariff increases of 16% each year over the next five years.
It said if Eskom’s application was approved, the region would “face a catastrophe” of job losses, and the “downward spiral” of the Eastern Cape economy.
The chamber, which represents businesses in Port Elizabeth, Uitenhage and Despatch, said the increases threatened the “survival of the manufacturing industry and commercial sector” in the province.
Tensions ran high as the public hearing by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa in Port Elizabeth was cut short as representatives of the Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) sang and chanted against the proposed electricity price increases.
But the Cosatu-affiliated National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa) subsequently issued a statement saying disruption by “members of the public” was not sanctioned by its leadership, and it “applauded” leaders of Numsa and Cosatu in restoring order and calm.
The tariff increases bode ill for government plans to prioritise infrastructure and jobs growth in poorer provinces. These include turning the Coega industrial development zone near Port Elizabeth into a major exporter of beneficiated manganese ore mined in the Northern Cape.
Lephalale in Limpopo hit an obstacle on Wednesday when construction workers downed tools.
Eskom spokeswoman Hilary Joffe said the station was temporarily closed.
“Construction workers had a protest action this morning and Eskom sent home the workers for safety reasons,” she said.
Numsa said the workers were striking over inadequate working conditions and food, and a lack of training. In September, about 80 workers protested, burning equipment and vehicles at the plant.
With Alistair Anderson