The Botswana Congress Party is pressuring the Minister of Minerals, Energy and Water Resources, Ponatshego Kedikilwe, on rising power tariffs, saying the rise is affecting individuals and businesses.
The BCP’s criticism of the electricity sub-sector has come on the heels of efforts by the minister to reduce the power crisis that has recently beset the country.
“The Government has for a long time failed to recognize the role of electricity as a strategic infrastructure,” said the BCP’s secretary for economic affairs, Diphetogo Maswabi. “The emphasis of government policy has been on importing electricity as opposed to building sufficient national generation capacity amid abundant coal reserves and availability of suitable technologies.”
For the past 45 years, the government has failed to develop alternative and renewable energy sources, such as solar power, to augment conventional sources, except for small experimentation projects, Maswabi said.
“When a nation such as ours heavily relies on electricity imports, the exporters will give preference to their own national demand, especially at times of scarcity,” he noted, referring to South Africa, Botswana’s long time power supplier.
In recent years, South Africa’s power utility, Eskom, has struggled to meet local demand, resulting in diminishing power supply to Botswana. This took a toll on Botswana, with frequent power outages occurring from early 2010.
“As a result of load shedding, different consumers of electricity, be it domestic, business or government have been negatively affected. This has affected all sectors of the economy and compromised meaningful economic recovery,” Maswabi said. “We are yet to be advised on the extent this man-made disaster has affected national economic growth.”
The BCP has further accused the government, through the Botswana Power Corporation, of introducing a faulty billing system that together with increasing tariffs has placed an enormous cost of burden on electricity consumers. “The poor Motswana consumer is made to pay for the inefficiencies of BPC and the Domkrag government,” Maswabi declared.
While acknowledging that the first tariff adjustment resulted from the increase in VAT from 10 percent to 12 percent, the BCP expressed unhappiness with the second tariff rise on June 1, 2011. This saw electricity tariffs increase by 15 percent and 30 percent for low and high domestic customers, respectively. A National Standard Cost levy of 5 percent was introduced, bringing the cumulative increase in electricity tariffs within two years to about 50 percent for domestic consumers.
“The increase is even larger for business consumers. These tariff increases, coupled with persistent load shedding, do not auger well for reinvigorating an economy in recession. They may lead to businesses fleeing to countries where the supply is stable and the tariffs competitive,” the BCP charged. “The government is creating fundraising ventures to raise quick revenue for development of national generating capacity at the expense of the welfare of consumers.”