Picture: Steve Lawrence/African News Agency (ANA)

Cape Town - MPs have warned against government’s plans to introduce pre-paid water and electricity meters to address the culture of non-payment for services by consumers.

According to MPs, the people who would be the hardest hit by this move would be the poorest of the poor, and those who were unemployed.

The remarks by MPs follow a presentation during a joint meeting of the portfolio committees of human settlements, water and sanitation as well as co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta).

MPs heard about plans to pilot the initiative in the Maluti-a-Phofung municipality in Phuthaditjhaba, as well as in the Thabazimbi, Naledi and Govan Mbeki municipalities.

About R14.9billion is owed to water boards.

“We are following up on the work of the Inter-Ministerial Task Team to establish the facts around the debt owed by municipalities to both water boards and Eskom,” Cogta Deputy Minister Parks Tau said. “There has been a requirement to respond through interventions to ensure municipalities meet their obligations, and have a discussion to find solutions to a range of problems,” he added.

Chief executive of the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent, Ntandazo Vimba, said municipal debt had been increasing at an alarming rate.

“It is recommended that this provision be extended to include officials of all organs of state and political office-bearers as part of a drive to inculcate a culture of payment for municipal services,” he said.

The planned introduction of pre-paid meters drew mixed reactions from MPs.

The EFF’s Shirley Mokgotho said only the few who were working would be able to afford to pay for water when pre-paid meters were installed.

“Most of the people will not be able to pay and the people will start marching to municipalities because water will be cut from their taps. You would not have solved the problem,” she said.

The ANC’s Bheki Hadebe said a long-lasting solution was needed and warned against the meters, citing problems experienced in Cape Town when they were introduced. The DA’s Leonard Basson said installation of prepaid meters would cost billions and would not help municipalities to pay up.

Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Deputy Minister David Mahlobo said one of the decisions public representatives and government officials had to make was to pay for services and lead from the front.

Political Bureau