Pensioners irate over electricity tariff increase

Keetmanshoop-Pensioners at the Daan Viljoen Old Age Home were left frustrated and angry after Keetmanshoop Municipality increased the basic electricity charges. The pensioners informed New Era that previously they paid basic electricity charges of about N$120 per month, but that has now been increased to about N$400.

On top of the basic charges, the pensioners have to pay for the actual electricity usage per individual, and some pensioners' invoices seen by New Era indicate that some will pay as much as N$780 for electricity per month, leaving them with a mere N$420 from their monthly pension grant of N$1,200 for food and other basic necessities.

Frustrated pensioners say this is unacceptable, as they will have no money left to sustain themselves if they spend almost their entire pension grant on electricity.

Anna Forbes, 66, told New Era the municipality was making the lives of the pensioners difficult, saying the municipality is milking the elders of every dollar they receive from government.

She said in the past the elderly at the old age home could afford to pay the basic electricity charges and for the usage, but the rate increase has left many unable to cope if they pay such high amounts on electricity alone.If we pay this huge amount just for electricity, then what do we have left to buy other basic needs? We cannot pay N$400 for electricity. The government is trying to help us, but the pension we get goes straight back to the municipality, she said.

Social worker Lindi Hartung also expressed concern over the amounts the pensioners are being asked to pay, saying it is not affordable and that many will be left without a cent after paying for electricity usage and the basic monthly charge of N$400.

She called the increase unfair towards the elders, saying the charges will make lives of the pensioners hard, especially during the current economic recession and further accused the municipality of trying to recover millions of dollars by charging residents too much.

It looks like vulnerable people are not being considered, an increase from N$120 to N$400 is nearly a four times increase. This is unfair to our elderly, she said.

Keetmanshoop's public relations officer, Dawn Kruger, said the increase in the rate of basic electricity charges was due to the increase in tarrifs imposed by the Electricity Control Board (ECB).

She said residents previously paid a flat rate of N$124 for the basic electricity charge, but this pricing formula has now changed and residents are required to pay according the number of ampere used by each household. Ampere � often shortened to amp � is the base unit of electric current.

She explained if residents use 20 amps, the amount to be paid will be 20 multiplied N$10, which will be N$200, while those on 35, 40 and 60 amps will pay N$350, N$400 and NR600 respectively as basic charges.

She said this pricing structure is needed to maintain the electricity grid. The reasoning is that that flat access was not keeping up with the cost of maintenance, and that is why there is this increase from ECB, she said.

Source: New Era Newspaper Namibia