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File picture: Pexels

Ratepayers object to tariff hike proposal

By Thami Magubane Time of article published Apr 20, 2021

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DURBAN - THE Msunduzi Municipality has come under fire from ratepayer organisations and residents, over its proposed tariff increases.

A report detailing public responses to the draft budget shows that almost all major ratepayer organisations have objected to the increase.

The municipality has tabled its draft budget for the 2021-22 financial year. Last month, public hearings on the budget were held. It is set to be implemented in July.

The draft budget has proposed an increase of 5.35% across the board, with the exception of water and electricity, whose tariffs are determined by outside factors. The estimated budget is at R6 billion, with the tariffs capped at 5.35%, water will be at 7% and electricity will be at 14%.

The report on the hearing shows the municipality was excoriated by members of the public. Besides the unaffordability of the increases, they felt the municipality did not deserve it, as it failed to deliver services.

In its report, the municipality said: “The proposed increases were met with many verbal objections during the virtual meetings, some of which were followed by written reasons, which are recorded accordingly.

Fifteen written objections were recorded as at April 13, 2021, including from ratepayer organisations, civil society groups, and the business chamber, the report said.

It said among reasons given for objections were, the impact of Covid19, unemployment and current economic challenges, that the tariff increase does not correspond with the inflation rate, lack of service delivery, and frustration of citizens.

Financial mismanagement, weak administration, poor debt management repayment systems, competency of officials were also raised.

It said residents had called for the projects to be reviewed so unnecessary ones, such as sponsorships, could be removed to focus on infrastructure.

The South African Minority Rights Equality Movement (Samrem) said, in their objection, that the municipality had performed poorly and had no justification to increase tariffs.

Samrem said, for a number of years, the Msunduzi Municipality had failed to fulfil its constitutional duty to ensure that ratepayers of the northern suburbs received service at the adequate level.

The Chasedene/Chase Valley Residents and Ratepayers Association said there was little service delivery in the areas it represented.

The Msunduzi Association of Residents, Ratepayers and Civics (MARRC) said the increase was way above inflation. The current inflation rate as recorded by Statistics SA is 3.2%.

“Service delivery in the municipality has deteriorated significantly over the years. This has resulted in widespread consumer frustration and anger, negative media reports and customer complaints, and formation of civil associations,” it said.

Written objections from individual ratepayers also spoke of the frustration of residents. Viola Govender said: “Rates increase. How does this work? We are already struggling to pay current rates, how does our municipality expect us to live? They don’t cut grass or clean gutters. Our salaries have not increased due to Covid-19, how must the average person survive?”

Shane Chaplin said: “This is absolutely ridiculous. I have reported burst pipes, water leaks for well over a year and, to date, nothing has been done. Absolutely unacceptable during this pandemic, as well as the financial situation that we have no service and yet the rates continue to rise.”

DA councillor Sibongiseni Majola said the municipality should have aimed for a minimum tariffs increase in order to give relief to the ratepayers who were severely impacted by Covid-19.

“Our budget is an anticipated budget, Treasury recommends that we should always aim for a surplus and Msunduzi use the tariffs as an escape hatch in order to achieve the surplus.

“We should aim for a minimum in tariffs increase, collect aggressively from all residents that can afford to pay, and we would have been able to achieve the needed surplus,” he said.

The municipality had not responded to questions on how it will treat the objections.

THE MERCURY

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