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Political parties, trade unions and other organisations blasted the National Energy Regulator of South Africa yesterday for granting Eskom a 31,3percent tariff hike.

Political parties, trade unions and other organisations blasted the National Energy Regulator of South Africa yesterday for granting Eskom a 31,3percent tariff hike.

The increase for the 2009-2010 financial year will come into effect next month when Eskom's average standard rate will rise from 25,24 cents a kilowatt/h to 33,14 cents.

Eskom came under fire last month at public hearings on its application for a 34percent increase.

Cosatu said the 31,3percent increase gave the parastatal almost everything it had asked for, which appeared "to be a token gesture by Nersa to demonstrate its independence from Eskom".

The DA said the increase demonstrated that ANC policies had "promoted an uncompetitive, inefficient energy sector".

"A tariff hike of this nature will have detrimental consequences for South Africa's poorest citizens and we are concerned that the government is sitting idly by while the fundamental problems within Eskom and the energy sector are not adequately addressed," said Sejamothopo Motau, the DA's energy spokesperson.

The DA called for an independent commission of inquiry to assess Eskom's management and its current and future production capacity. The Congress of the People said it was unacceptable for consumers to "be punished for the follies of Eskom's management and the government".

Spokesperson Phillip Dexter said the increase would cause job losses and force businesses to close.

The South African Local Government Association said the hike would affect municipalities' costs.

"It will also increase the cost of supplying free basic electricity to indigent households and will have a negative impact on municipal financial viability," it said.

The Human Rights Commission appealed to Nersa to "consider granting reasonable increases" when Eskom applies for even higher tariffs later this year. It said the increase showed there was a pressing need for the government "to develop a comprehensive policy" on social security.

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