We have received several queries from readers on what is free basic electricity.
We have generated a quick explainer from the public government documents.
In 2001 South Africa adopted a policy intended for the provision of free basic services to poorer households. Under this policy, municipalities were tasked to identify indigent households that would receive services – such as water and electricity – for free or at substantially subsidised rates.
Households are required to register with municipalities to qualify for free basic services. A municipality’s role is to vet every application, selecting only those households that meet various criteria. Successful applicants are granted indigent status.
Municipalities often run awareness campaigns to ensure that households are aware of the application process.
Indigent status isn’t for life, however. The economic status of a family might improve over time.
To ensure that only the poorest families are catered for, municipalities require registered households to reapply for indigent status on a regular basis, often once a year
Municipalities determine their own categories of subsidies.
In some municipalities, households qualify for 100% subsidies while others qualify for less than 100% depending on the criteria set.
The provision of basic services to the poor remains a top priority for the government. The indigent programme continues to be a vital lifeline for the 22% of households that would otherwise not have had access to basic services.
Free basic electricity
Free basic electricity of 50kWh per household per month for a grid-energy system (connected through the national electrification programme) is provided. This amount of electricity will be enough to provide basic lighting, basic water heating using a kettle, basic ironing and a small black and white TV and radio.
Users who have pre-paid electricity meters will be able to see when free electricity is used up and will have to buy more electricity at their own expense.
Users with conventional or credit meters will not be able to see easily when they have used up their units. They will be charged for additional use at the end of each month.
Consumers who do not have access to grid electricity could be provided with non-grid electricity by their municipalities. You should contact your municipality to find out the type of alternative sources of energy provided.
Free Basic Electricity (FBE) tokens
Blue Label Telecoms’ subsidiaries Utilities World and Cigicell have teamed up to offer a Free Basic Electricity token service to help indigent households meet their basic energy needs while practising social distancing during South Africa’s COVID-19 lockdown period and beyond.
Qualifying prepaid electricity customers can now use a free USSD service on their cellular handsets to request their FBE token – all from within the safety and convenience of their own homes.
They do not have to venture out to shops during the lockdown period to get their FBE token, helping to protect them from unnecessary exposure to Covid-19.
Recipients of FBE tokens simply dial *130*869# to receive the electricity that is due to them.