Tough times loom

Tough times loom

MASERU – CONSUMERS must brace for tough times after the Lesotho Electricity Company sought a 21.3 percent tariff hike. The Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) is seeking tariff increases of between 12 and 15 percent. The proposals, which were swiftly condemned by trade unions, were made to the Lesotho Electricity and Water Authority (LEWA) last week.

The LEC Statistician, Thakane Makume, told thepost that the tariffs differ due to the state of citizens, domestic and commercial consumers. “The domestic consumers’ rates differ from people who run salons or stores because the rates at which units are used in the salon are different from electricity consumed at home,” she said.

For both domestic consumers and commercial customers, the LEC is proposing a massive 21.3 percent hike. The WASCO Statistics Manager, Pefole Pefole, said before the water tariffs are increased the community will be approached by LEWA so that their opinions can be considered. It would only be after that interaction that an agreement on the rates can be made. He said the proposal was that water should be increased by 12 percent for domestic customers and 15 percent for commercial customers.

The proposed tariffs hikes have not sat well with trade unions. The trade unions swiftly condemned the proposed tariff hikes. Qamaka Ntšene, the Secretary General of United Textiles Employees (UNITE), said they are pushing for employers to push the minimum wage to M2 000 so that workers can be at least close to a living wage. Ntšene said it is unfair that the workers do not get a living wage but tariffs continue to be bumped up every year.

Factory workers earn between M1 200 and M1 500 every month. “We want wages that will enable workers to pay for the tariffs but both the employers and the government are blocking this,” he said. “This is despite that in 2012 the then incoming government, led by Prime Minister Thomas Thabane, had promised that factory workers would be paid M2 020,” he said. “Even now it is not happening. How do they expect the poor workers to live?”

Ntšene said they are worried that even though a gazette has not been published, they heard that the wages will be increased by only seven percent. “Workers cannot afford these increments,” he said. ’Mei Rathakane, an official for the Independent Democratic Unions of Lesotho (IDUL), told thepost that they are not satisfied with a seven percent increment on the minimum wage because it does not add any value. “We are going to meet other trade unions to discuss the way forward,” Rathakane said.

The Minister of Energy Mokoto Hloaele said the LEC has to approach the LEWA to seek permission to increase rates.The LEC will then seek the opinions of the public on the proposed rates increase. “That is only when LEWA will make a decision based on the public’s opinions and the company,” Hloaele said. “There ought to be that process first and foremost. I hope that by the end of this week the decision will be made by the LEWA board,” he said.

On the same note the Minister of Water Samonyane Ntsekele said before an increment is made, the public has to be called and asked for their opinions and a decision would be made. He pleaded with the public to fully engage in these discussions so that their opinions can be considered.

Tokase Mphutlane

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