Durbanites who feel they are getting poorer by the year are right. The latest proposed tariff increases for the 2012/2013 year have already got eThekwini residents in a spin and, in light of the discontinuation of the free basic water allowance, they are being urged to attend public hearings into the proposed increases.
The Independent on Saturday completed an independent tariff increase calculation that eThekwini residents have faced over the past five years. Using R100 as a base charge in 2008, we calculated how much tariffs for water, rates and electricity have risen in that period.
The 2012/2013 draft tariff amounts have been used, as the final budget is expected to be adopted only in May.
Electricity has seen the largest jump, from R100 in 2008 to R279.84 in 2012/2013.
Water has increased by about R60 and rates by about R42.
The large cumulative increase has not gone unnoticed by ratepayers, and though the city is expected to charge a nominal 11% increase on electricity for this financial year, it comes as little relief.
Lilian Develing, chairwoman of the Combined Ratepayers Association, said: “We’ve noticed that the cost of electricity has increased by about 150% over the past five years.”
She believed council was unaware of the impact the increases were having on people.
“This effect, especially on blue collar workers, is becoming hugely unaffordable,” said Develing.
Deena Govender, senior manager for electricity pricing and marketing at the municipality, said he was aware that electricity has been a “stress for people”, but he said hopefully the limiting of this year’s increase to 11% would bring some relief to ratepayers.
“eThekwini has one of the highest collection rates in the country, but there are about six-to seven percent of ratepayers who have issues in terms of paying,” said Govender.
The water tariff, meanwhile, has also got ratepayers up in arms.
The proposed water tariff increase for the 2012/2013 year is 12.5%, much higher than last year’s 7.5% increase.
The municipality said the construction of the Spring Grove Dam, near Rosetta, was essential to securing water supply.
Develing said residents were being made to pay for a dam which was the government’s responsibility.
She added that the removal of the free nine kilolitres of water for households was not fair.
“In the National Water Act, it says that households should be given 6 kilolitres of free water, so how can eThekwini take this away?” she asked, adding that pensioners limited the amount of water they used so as to save on costs.
However, Themba Khumalo, spokesman for the national water affairs department, said the free basic water policy, set by national government, was largely directed at poor households.
“eThekwini metro is within their rights to decide who should and shouldn’t get the free basic water allowance. Residents in Gillitts, for example, can afford to pay for the free water…the city likely realised that they are subsiding people who can afford to pay,” said Khumalo.
The MF’s Patrick Pillay said they were worried about the high tariffs adding up over the past few years.
“Pensioners and grantees are stressing over the tariffs, as their grants go towards the payment of water and lights bills ... after paying those bills they hardly have anything left to survive,” said Pillay.
“A person’s income should be the method used to determine if they qualify for rebates and free water or electricity, not property values,” said Pillay.
He said the MF was encouraging people to attend the public hearings on the proposed tariff increases.
DA finance and procurement committee member Rick Crouch said: “If we continue increasing rates and tariffs as we are, Durban is going to end up as a ghost town, because it is too expensive to conduct business and live here”.
Thabo Mofokeng, municipal spokesman, said public hearings for the proposed tariff increases were expected to begin in mid-April, and the dates and venues were likely to be announced next week when council resumes after the Easter recess.
Independent on Saturday