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Halt electricity tariff hike: civic groups 

by Lesotho Times
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Moroke Sekoboto 

CIVIC groups have urged the government to halt the near 10 percent increase in electricity tariffs announced recently, saying hard pressed Basotho could hardly afford it. 

Lesotho was saddled with a comatose economy, low or non-existent wages due to the high rate of unemployment and endemic poverty.  Effecting such a huge increase was therefore untenable for the masses. 

Additionally, the civic groups complained that distribution of electricity and access to the grid was skewed towards rich households to the exclusion of the poor. 

The Lesotho Electricity and Water Authority (LEWA) approved a 9.7 percent hike in electricity tariffs for the Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) amid intense opposition from various stakeholders.  The hike was effected on Monday 1 April. 

Civic Groups, the Lesotho Council of Non-Governmental Organisations (LCN) and Section 2, have scoffed at the tariff hike describing it as unjustified.  

They have urged the government to halt it. 

The two organisations said the increase was meant to subsidize what they describe as the perennially bad running of the LEC at the expense of hard-pressed consumers. 

The LCN, through its sectorial Commission of Economic Justice (CEJ), said it had attended the public hearings over the tariff increase and made its views known. But it complained these had been ignored by the LEWA board which had proceeded to approve the “unbearable tariff hike”. 

The LCN said the tariff increase would not be “socially implementable” due to the realities of mass poverty and unemployment in Lesotho. 

“The LEC tariff increase places an unjust burden on already struggling individuals and low-income households. In such a case electricity benefits only the elites in terms of access and affordability,” the LCN said in a statement. 

The LEC should consider other means of raising revenues such as tightening its financial management systems, reducing its fleet transport costs, and decreasing emoluments to its senior officials, among other measures, the LCN exhorted. 

The civic group also urged a thorough audit of LEC finances to ascertain the level of its control systems. It called on the government to manage the power sector effectively and efficiently. 

LCN said it was concerned that the government was letting its parastatals “act as they pleased” at the expense of the poor. 

Another civic group, Section 2, said as a stakeholder, it was its responsibility to ensure that tariff adjustments were fair, transparent, and reflective of the socioeconomic realities faced by consumers.  The 9.7 hike was grossly unfair in light of Lesotho’s economic realities. 

It urged the LEC to release its audited financial statements forthwith to demonstrate why the hike was justified. 

“Upon receipt of audited financial statements, we recommend that stakeholders should be allowed time to conduct a comprehensive review of the tariff increase proposal to assess its reasonableness and alignment with socioeconomic realities of consumers,” SECTION 2 said in a statement. 

 “SECTION 2 asserts that it is inappropriate to expect informed participation in the tariff consultation process based on outdated financial information, especially when statutory obligations dictate timely auditing and disclosure of financial statements.” 

National University of Lesotho (NUL) lecturer in the Department of Economics, Leseko Makhetha, said there was no doubt the hike would adversely affect already struggling consumers as it would result in concomitant increases in the costs of other daily essentials.   

The cost of living had risen in the past decade whilst wages had remained largely stagnant, Dr Makhetha said. 

Dr Makhetha said the LEC was inefficient as it did not produce the country’s power needs, causing it to import the deficit.  The parastatal was also lumbered with an unnecessarily huge wage bill, partly as a result of duplication of roles, he said.   

 

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