Sparks flew at an electricity conference on proposed tariff hikes on Thursday, with an economist confronting a senior Eskom manager on his claim that its prices were “really” not that expensive.
Economist Mike Schussler, pictured, took the stand and questioned numbers presented by Eskom chief officer for generation Brian Dames. He then accused the government of “wanting to be in this Marxist, socialist kak” by providing free electricity to the poor.
Schussler’s emotional presentation, in which he told Eskom, “you don’t need a f***ing finance model”, came after Dames addressed a packed room at a conference, organised by Solidarity trade union in Pretoria, on proposed electricity tariff hikes.
Dames defended Eskom’s controversial 35%-a-year-for-three-years tariff hike application to the National Energy Regulator of SA (Nersa), saying it “really” only amounted to a 16c/kwH increase per year.
Also, the increase in contributions would fund its capital expenditure programme, said Dames, adding: “The existing business of Eskom will really be increasing pretty much in line with inflation levels.”
But Schussler told the audience he did not know where Dames got his figures from and reiterated an earlier statement that SA was headed towards having the most expensive electricity in the world.
He lamented the fact that industry players in SA paid much lower rates than consumers. “The problem is, we give the biggest discount in the world to industrial users… Why come to the rest of us, in our middle-class homes, and torture us to death with these increases? And you keep saying to us that we have cheap electricity prices, which is not the truth,” said Schussler.
If Eskom did not give such huge discounts on some of its contracts, it would not need additional funding. “There’s enough money … you don’t need a f***ing finance model,” he said to cheers from the audience.
Schussler also criticised electricity being free for poor households. “But government doesn’t think that way. They want to be in this Marxist, socialist kak.”
To make matters worse, 6% of electricity in the country was stolen. “That is not fair,” he complained.
At the end of his presentation, to which the audience clapped loudly, a middle-aged, bespectacled man jumped up with his hand in the air.
“Mr facilitator, can we please control our language,” he said angrily, to which the facilitator, Chris Yelland, replied: “Thanks for the presentation, Mr Schussler, provocative as ever…”
Several guests rolled their eyes at the complaint, and Yelland added: “Things are getting hot, guys,” before quickly introducing the next speaker, energy expert Andrew Kenny.
At the start of his presentation, Kenny warned he was going to criticise Eskom, but emphasised that it was nothing personal against Dames, adding that Dames would get his vote to become Eskom’s new CEO.
Kenny then moved on and likened Eskom to a headless chicken. “It has gone in no direction at all, like a headless chicken,” he said, launching into pie charts and figures to prove his point.
Conference goers engaged in lively debate during the coffee break, with one accusing Eskom managers of suffering from hearing defects. “Daar’s niemand so doof soos iemand wat nie wil hoor nie [There is no-one as deaf as someone who does not want to hear],” he sighed. — Sapa
- Image credit: Solidarity