"It has now emerged that the City’s water department had underspent its budget by a massive R1.6 billion. How on earth can this be justified?" Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency.
High water tariffs are among the most pressing issues bugging Cape Town residents. The tariffs are partially attributed to a water crisis we faced. During the crisis Capetonians from all backgrounds did what they normally do - roll up their sleeves and tackle a challenge together.

It has now emerged that the City’s water department had underspent its budget by a massive R1.6 billion. How on earth can this be justified when some of the poorest are being slapped with water bills even many of their better off counterparts can’t afford?

It is criminal. It certainly leaves a bad taste in the mouth. Is this the City’s way of showing appreciation for a sterling team effort by consumers?

And if that is not enough, the City has raked in nearly R1 billion more than it had planned for water charges.

As we report today, service charges for water revenue amounts to an over recovery of R938 million. This makes daylight robbery look like a joke. It also makes a mockery of the City’s motto - “Making progress possible, together”.

The only thing made together here is the collective punishment dished out to consumers. There is thus no guessing why so many people are furious.

Action group Stop COCT founder Sandra Dickson sums it up when she says

“We are sitting with a massive problem. The poorest of the poor are being slapped with high bills. These people are suffering. We have complaints from all over the City and I know that people can’t cope. But when I look at these figures, one can see why people are suffering the way they are. We will not be taking this lying down.”

Dickson is right - it is an outrage. Those pulling the strings at the Civic Centre have some explaining to do, but there is no justification for this rip-off.

We hold no brief for the ANC, but we urge aggrieved consumers to support the party’s move for a class action. Poor ratepayers do not have the means to take on the City. As for other parties in council - their lethargic approach to an issue so big is absolutely shocking.

It is quite clear they lack the appetite to do something constructive for their constituencies.

But this is a matter best left to the electorate.

@TheCapeAgus

Cape Argus