DWAF still mum on water-price justification

Forestry SA (FSA) and the DEPARTMENT of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) are still at loggerheads over a decision to increase water prices for the country’s forestry sector by 6,4% for the 2008/09 year.

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Forestry SA (FSA) and the DEPARTMENT of Water Affairs and Forestry (DWAF) are still at loggerheads over a decision to increase water prices for the country’s forestry sector by 6,4% for the 2008/09 year. While FSA said it deemed the price increase reasonable, it objected to what it described as DWAF’s failure to provide the industry with the necessary budgetary information to substantiate the price increase.

“The FSA has indicated that it won’t accept this latest water price increase because, for the umpteenth time, DWAF has contravened its own legislation and regulations by not providing the FSA with the relevant budgetary information,” said FSA assistant director Roger Godsmark.

“Although FSA cannot and will not recommend that their members don’t pay their new water charges, which became effective from 1 April, it’s recommended that members either pay water charges at the new rate or alternatively, pay water charges based on
the 2007/08 rate.” FSA added that if members chose the latter, it was recommended that they attach notes with their invoices explaining their course of action.

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FSA also encouraged members to word them as follows: “We have, on the advice of Forestry South Africa, left our payment at the rate applicable prior to April 2008, as the forestry industry cannot accept tariff increases without first having been provided with relevant information as laid out in the National Water Pricing Strategy. As this has not been provided, FSA, on behalf of the forestry industry, has notified of its non-acceptance of the new tariff.”

Meanwhile, spokesperson Linda Page responded to Farmer’s Weekly two weeks after a written enquiry on the matter by simply stating: “According to DWAF officials, there has been extensive communication with FSA and stakeholders about pricing in the past year. Unfortunately, the department cannot give further information to you at this time, but a communiqué is going to go out to the industry in the next week.” – Lloyd Phillips

Eskom’s fiscal injection still to be finalised

At the time of Going to Print the Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA) was set to hold public hearings on 23 May, and announce its final decision on 6 June, on whether Eskom’s request for a 53% tariff increase would be granted.
he attendees of the recent energy summit held in Sandton – civil society, labour, business and government – requested that instead of the huge increases proposed, hikes should rather be phased in over five years. At present the proposal is for a 53% hike this year, and a 48% hike in 2009.

Government supports the five-year plan with a recommendation that the price of electricity should increase from its current 20c/kWh to 46c/kWh over that time.
Government has agreed to provide “substantial fiscal injections” to help Eskom meet its expansion plans after the National Economic Development and Labour Council (Nedlac) made a recommendation at the energy summit that the state should cover any shortfall if Nersa didn’t grant Eskom its full 53% increase this year, and a 48% increase next year. The full injection amount, however, still has to be determined.
Johan Pienaar, Agri SA’s deputy executive director of economics and trade, said it was still too early to comment on the two scenarios as Nersa still had to make its decision and Nedlac had to give its input.

“We don’t know where we stand with electricity at the moment,” said Pienaar. “The proposed price hikes are still very high. Government has to raise its hand here because it failed to plan properly.” – David Steynberg

DA rebuked after Saudi land spat

The Western Cape Department of Agriculture (WCDA) and the premier’s office have denied allegations that the Western Cape minister of agriculture has given a list of 14 farms to potential investors in Saudi Arabia.

Western Cape Agricultural MEC Gerrit van Rensburg, who made the allegations, said that it would be a crying shame if agricultural land fell into foreign hands.
“Saudis want to use our scarce water and soil and then send food to their own countries, while people in SA are poor and starving,” said Van Rensburg. But Alie van Jaarsveld, spokesperson for the WCDA, retorted that it’s strange that the DA would make such a hooha over the Saudis, while never saying a word about the Europeans who buy wine farms in the Western Cape.

Van Jaarsveld and Shado Twala, spokesperson for Western Cape premier Ebrahim Rasool, confirmed these allegations were based on a misunderstanding.
he Western Cape minister of agriculture, Cobus Dowry, had recently been on a trip to Saudi Arabia and Dowry told the Saudis that there were 14 farms on the market, said Twala.

She added that he hadn’t offered the land to the Saudis, but simply told them that they could buy the land through estate agents or via the internet. Van Jaarsveld said that the Department of Agriculture’s main aim is to protect land and see to it that it remains sustainable.

“It’s true we need land to reach our 30% land reform target,” said Van Jaarsveld. “We don’t have a problem with foreign investment if the land remains productive and results in employment.” – Glenneis Erasmus