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eThekwini Municipality defends tariff hikes, residents urged to have their say as water and electricity bills set to go up

EThekwini residents can expect to pay more for water and electricity in the coming financial year, based on the metro’s new draft budget tabled last week.

File Picture: Denis Farrell

Published Apr 4, 2022

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DURBAN - ETHEKWINI residents can expect to pay more for water and electricity in the coming financial year, based on the metro’s new draft budget tabled last week.

The draft budget for the 2022/23 financial year is estimated to be R54 billion. It is now available for public comment and is set to come into effect in July, once it has been approved.

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In drafting the budget, the metro said it had considered that many residents are struggling financially, thus its increases are less than in previous years.

It said some of the increases are less than what it was charged by suppliers, such as Eskom.

It said the 2022/23 consolidated draft budget is geared to drive service delivery and support economic recovery.

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“The city’s consolidated draft budget of R54.6 billion has been reprioritised to support the government’s commitment to provide quality service delivery by concentrating on infrastructure development, particularly in the provision of water and electricity,” it said.

The metro’s capital budget comprises R4.8bn for the next financial year, and a projected R15.2bn for the next three years. The capital budget continued to reflect consistent efforts to address backlogs in basic services, and the renewal of infrastructure and existing network services, it said.

The operating budget is set to increase to R49.7bn in 2022/23. The R49.7bn includes R18.7bn for electricity; R12bn for water and sanitation; R6.5bn for community and emergency services; R2.6bn for cleansing and solid-waste removal; while R2.5bn is to be spent on roads and engineering.

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Water is set to increase by 5.9% for residential use and 9% for business use, while electricity is set to go up by 8.61%.

Sanitation is to go up by 5.9% for residential and 9% for business use. Refuse removal will cost 4.5% more for domestic use, and 7.9% for business use.

The metro said this is a balanced and fully funded budget, but there had been major cuts in expenditure. “Some of the main budget reviews were in respect of salary increases, overtime contracted services and security, but the baseline budgets were not impacted.

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“Close monitoring of operating expenditure and income will be undertaken to ensure sustainability. Austerity measures will be further considered to ensure affordability of services to consumers and ratepayers.

“Improved productivity and value for money need to be driven by management to ensure improvement in our financial position,” the metro said in its budget estimates.

Some opposition parties expressed concern over the increases, saying the tariffs would place an extra burden on already embattled residents.

“These tariffs are lower than in the past, but the DA believes that EThekwini still charges far too much for very poor services,” the DA’s Nicole Graham said.

“The DA’s priority is to ensure that this budget addresses the municipality’s crucial infrastructure issues.

“Water and electricity outages have been a constant feature across EThekwini , and this cannot continue. It is time to cut the fat, and focus on building and maintaining infrastructure to keep the lights on and the taps running.

“The DA will fight for a fair and meaningful process and a budget that finally addresses the real concerns in EThekwini . People cannot pay more and receive less and less,” Graham said.

IFP councillor Jane Naidoo criticised the increases, saying the city believed there was only one option to increase revenue, and that is to increase tariffs. She said the IFP had a different view. “Given the economic downturn caused by Covid-19 and the civil unrest, the IFP has great concerns regarding a further financial burden these proposed tariff increases would impose on consumers.

“Currently, hundreds of residents are in arrears with the city for utilities and thousands have been disconnected from essential services.

“Given these facts, it is inconceivable to allow these exorbitant tariff increases such as a 5.9% hike for water for residents and 9% for business. The 8.61% hike for electricity is also unreasonable.”

African Democratic Change (ADeC) leader, Visvin Reddy, called on residents to engage with the draft budget and make their voices heard. “You cannot complain later if you do not engage in this consultation process. We will ensure that broad consultation takes place, where all communities are given the opportunity to express their views.”

EThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda said the proposed tariff increases for 2022/23 are lower than last year. “The proposed average electricity increase is 8.61% against Eskom’s increase of 9.61%.

“We are confident the austerity measures in place will sustain the affordability of services to consumers and ratepayers. Improved productivity and value for money must be driven aggressively by management to ensure the metro’s financial position improves.”

In line with national and provincial priorities, the metro would accelerate economic recovery by creating conditions for private sector investment; prioritise infrastructure development; improve the delivery of basic services; and focus on job creation, he said.

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