No to tariff hikes until services improve

Ratepayers Associations attend the budget meeting at the Durban Exhibition Centre on Monday.

Ratepayers Associations attend the budget meeting at the Durban Exhibition Centre on Monday.

Published Apr 23, 2024


eThekwini ratepayers’ associations have argued that only when the City provides better services and deals with billing system issues, should it propose raising tariffs for rates, electricity, water and sanitation.

The associations attended a meeting on Monday afternoon at the Durban Exhibition Centre with representatives from the eThekwini Municipality to discuss the draft budget.

While eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda had been expected to attend the meeting, he was not present.

However eThekwini speaker Thabani Nyawose was in attendance.

The draft budget shows that for the 2024 /25 financial year, the proposed increases are for rates to increase by 7.9%, electricity by 14%, water for both domestic and business use would increase by 14.9%, sanitation by 12.9% and waste removal by 8% for domestic and 9% for business.

Allison Schoeman, from the Bluff Ratepayers’ and Residents’ Association, said residents had significant concerns on the proposed tariff hikes.

“First and foremost, we object to the exclusion of the ratepayers’ associations in the initial stages of the budget formulation process. The Constitution mandates public participation in municipal governance, ensuring that all stakeholders, including ratepayers’ associations, are involved from the outset.”

Schoeman added that the municipality needed to prioritise the maintenance and repair of existing infrastructure to support local businesses and ensure they can continue to contribute to the city’s revenue.

eThekwini Ratepayers and Residents’ Association (ERRA) chairperson Ish Prahladh said residents could not afford the hikes and the City’s billing system was also giving people incorrect bills.

Prahladh added that they have a petition signed by thousands of residents against the proposed increases.

“The pensioners are suffering and these current increases must be stalled. It cannot be put in place.”

He said before implementing tariff hikes, the City needed to attend to service delivery issues including sorting out the billing system.

Jay Govender from Tongaat Ratepayers’ Association said the area had several service delivery challenges.

“There are major issues with the billing. We didn’t have water for months and are still getting billed.”

Jacques Poupard, from the uMhlanga Ratepayers’ Association, questioned why the City’s budget was presented in such a complex manner that it made it difficult for ratepayers to understand.

“You are trying to complicate the budget to make it hard for ratepayers to understand. The tariff increases are unreasonable and in no way can be sustained.

“We have failed service delivery and that is why we are finding so many people from the Durban North area that are leaving eThekwini for other areas like Cape Town.”

In response to the matters raised, Neli Mncwango, from eThekwini Municipality, responded that the proposed tariff increases and budget was based on the declining trend of cash reserves owing to rising operating costs.

“The proposed budget is based on current economic impact and on the affordability of business and consumers. There has been reduced income from Electricity, Water and Solid Waste due to a decrease in sales volumes and major damage to infrastructure caused by the floods and recent inclement weather in KZN.”

Speaking during the meeting, Nyawose said he had heard the ratepayers’ concerns about the draft budget and the tariff increases.

“It’s clear that ratepayers are not happy with our service delivery. We also get the message that ratepayers are not happy with the billing system and how it is functioning.

“We also understand the message regarding the concern of ratepayers and that they are not happy with the state of beaches - about sewage going into beaches and affecting tourism that is noted.”

Nyawose also apologised for the absence of the mayor.

“I will personally speak to the mayor about ratepayers not being happy that he was not present at this engagement.”

The City’s draft budget of R67.3 billion for the 2024-2025 financial year is currently out for public comment.

If approved, it will be implemented at the start of the new financial year in July.

The Mercury