Durban — Westville residents handed over their memorandum of grievances to eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda around the ongoing tariff hikes impasse, giving him 14 working days to respond to their grievances.
This is after the Westville Ratepayers’ Association (WRA) gave Kaunda a list of demands during the meeting over the ongoing tariff hikes impasse, held at Westville Civic Centre on Thursday.
The list of grievances included:
- The 2023/ 2024 tariff be set aside backdated to July 1, 2023.
- Renegotiate the 2023/2024 tariff increase which is affordable to everyone.
- Undertaking to and a comprehensive plan of action to tackle misappropriation and irregular expenses.
- Immediate stop to electricity disconnections, unless prepaid metres are installed.
- Immediate establishment of the Rates Appeals Board.
- All rates increases on properties on appeal be set aside, backdated to July 2022.
- All credit agreements must be reviewed and a memorandum placed on all interest on overdue accounts.
- A simplified billing system.
- Regular, accurate readings as per legislation. Estimate billing needs to stop.
- Registered ratepayers over 65 with arrears, to be written off.
- Oversight board between the ratepayers and eThekwini be set up within 14 days.
WRA chairperson Asad Gaffar said acting lawfully on behalf of all eThekwini residents, WRA has declared a dispute with the municipality.
“The protest has just begun, and the municipality is definitely feeling the pressure. The mayor announced he wants to meet next week. He can’t afford to wait 14 days,” Gaffar said.
“Our metro has failed to consult broadly over increased utilities. Instead, it has unilaterally applied massive, unaffordable rates and tariff increases.
“We know of no other way to oblige the City to follow the letter of the law, we have exhausted all avenues, the City has no ears.”
Addressing WRA, Kaunda said: “We constantly engage with you because we recognise the important role ratepayers play in the provision of quality services. In fact, without you, the municipality will not be able to deliver on its constitutional mandate.”
He said the City was “deeply” concerned about the public statements that have been attributed to WRA of mobilising residents to boycott the payment of rates.
“We appeal to you to reconsider this decision and allow these engagements to continue until we find a lasting solution. We have also started a process of streamlining our revenue collection system so that residents are billed correctly for the services they have used. We also want to reiterate that it is unlawful to withhold the payment of property rates for any reason.
Kaunda encouraged residents to continue paying their accounts as non-payment will attract interest.
“The Municipality will continue implementing credit control measures in line with the relevant policies and municipal by-laws where accounts are in arrears. This includes disconnections which attract a reconnection fee.
“As a city, we must also caution about the risks of withholding municipal payments and paying monies into trust accounts/other structures.”
He said credit control measures include levying interest on overdue accounts and disconnection.
“Should a resident decide to sell a property, there will be challenges with issuing a rates clearance certificate. When the property owner dies, a rate boycott could present challenges in winding up an estate,” Kaunda stated.
The DA caucus leader councillor Thabani Mthethwa commended Kaunda for meeting with WRA.
EThekwini IFP leader Mdu Nkosi said that the IFP has been calling on eThekwini to listen and engage with the ratepayers’ associations across the city, instead of taking decisions unilaterally.
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