Ethekwini ratepayers fuming over tariff increases announced in the city’s budget
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THE impact of Covid-19 has affected the eThekwini Municipality's revenue collection and service delivery but Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda, during the tabling of the Metro’s 2021/2022 budget yesterday, said the city had risen above all odds.
The R52.3 billion budget was adopted by the majority despite rejection by the Democratic Alliance which felt that the City was not led by “honest and suitable leaders”.
He said the City saw a drastic decrease in the ability to collect revenue and as a result, the collection rate dropped from 95% in March 2020 to 56% in April 2021.
Kaunda said the City subsequently introduced a special debt relief programme.
He said the drop in the cash revenue meant that no interest was raised on arrears and this allowed for a favourable payment plan to settle arrears.
He said to date, more than 20 000 customers had taken advantage of the initiative.
"We are pleased to report that the collection rate has subsequently improved to an average of 94.7% as at 30 April. We must celebrate this significant improvement,"said Kaunda.
He presented the City's 10-point plan to institutionalise the new normal and drive radical socio-economic transformation.
The plan included the implementation of a business industrial strategy to position Durban as a competitive global port city. A multi-billion Infrastructure Delivery Fund is expected to be launched in September.
As part of the City's plan to address crime in the city, Kaunda committed support by the city and its stakeholders and the law enforcement agencies in dealing with crime.
A budget of R69 million has been allocated towards strengthening smart policy technology.
The City has begun with a project of installing CCTV cameras to help fight crime effectively in Phoenix, Inanda, Ntuzuma and Kwamashu.
"We are worried about the murder rate in Mpumalanga Township and Cato Crest. We are gravely concerned about the latest crime statistics which show that uMlazi and Inanda continue to be crime hotspots in eThekwini. In an effort to fight crime, we have embarked on a new initiative involving all stakeholders to come with tangible plans to fight crime.“
Kaunda named the recently launched Community Safety Forum and Local Drug Action Committee, which is aimed at bringing together community crime-fighting structures, business, police and various government departments.
The City's Integrated Safer Cities project established a Fusion Centre, a facility that allows law enforcement agencies to act before crime happens.
"Our crime prevention strategies also include improving street lighting in all corners of the municipality and improving street layout for use by pedestrians.“
The budget comprises an operating budget of R47.0 billion and a capital budget of R5.3 billion. This budget is based on an improved collection rate by the City of 95%.
From July 1, residents can expect an electricity tariff hike of 14.59%, while those who are supplied directly by Eskom will see an increase of 17.8%
Kaunda explained that the Eskom bulk electricity increase and the Umgeni Water Board bulk water increase are out of the municipality’s control, but the plight of residents has been taken into consideration.
“Despite all the challenges, we have tried to keep the increases to affordable levels considering the tough economic climate facing our residents,” he said.
The increases are as follows:
Property Rates: 4.9%.
Refuse : 4.9%
The tariff increases did not sit well with ratepayers.
The Bluff Ratepayers Association chairperson Ivor Aylward said it was a long time coming.
He said the poverty stricken people, the unemployed and the pensioners were going to suffer even more.
"Pensioners only received an increase of R30. How are they expected to cope? Those employed and were lucky to receive a salary increase, received something that is way below the inflation rate. It's a disgrace!" said Aylward.
Tony Clothier, resident and member of the Outer West Ratepayers Association, said his area would be better off as they get their electricity supply directly from Eskom.
He felt that before the City could increase tariffs for services, it should first address the issue of corruption.
"Can we go back to the times where Durban was rated as one of the top financially stable municipalities in the world? These days, the City cannot maintain any kind of infrastructure. Any increase is not accepted as long as corruption and nepotism is not rooted out and the ruling party has done away with cadre deployment. It is very sad that the residents of eThekwini are forced to pay more for electricity to support corruption,"said Clothier.
Kaunda insisted that the tariffs were set at the lowest percentages ever seen in the last five years.