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Durban - eThekwini residents should brace themselves for financial pain in the year ahead.

The eThekwini Municipality’s R39.1 billion draft budget, presented to councillors this week, proposes above-inflation increases for water, electricity, sanitation and refuse that will hit ratepayers hard.

Residential water is set to increase by 9.5 percent, while water at business premises rises by 12.9 percent.

Sanitation and refuse goes up by 9.9 percent.

Electricity is expected to cost Durban residents 12.2 percent more - less than the 14.25 percent hike approved by Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa).

However, the city warned on Wednesday that the tariff may need to be reviewed if Eskom was successful in applying for an additional 9.58 percent increase from Nersa.

The budget will be taken to communities across the city and if approved, will come into effect on July 1.

The city’s capital budget of R6.1bn will focus on social, economic, asset management and rehabilitation, environmental, administration and support systems.

The operating budget of R33.1bn will see R5.9bn going towards water services, R1.8bn for cleaning and solid waste, R2.1bn for sanitation, R12.5bn for electricity, R1.6bn for engineering services and R3.1bn for community and emergency services.

Metro spokeswoman, Tozi Mthethwa, said the draft budget aimed at providing improved service delivery and improving the lives of all citizens.

“The city has prioritised growing the economy and job creation, expanding and improving municipal infrastructure, accelerating and improving service delivery to communities, fighting poverty and building safe, sustainable communities and improving skills development to raise productivity.

“One of the highlights of this is that R65.8m is provided for youth development initiatives benefiting 2 367 learners,” she said.

Mthethwa said the city’s below-Nersa-approved electricity hike was a fair indication of the municipality’s commitment towards drawing up a pro-poor budget in a tough economic climate.

The municipality additionally faces a huge challenge of water loss in distribution which is sitting at 35 percent. Leakages and overflowing reservoirs are some of the factors that have a cost implication on the budget.

Durban ratepayer bodies have slammed the proposed increases.

Dharmand Nowbuth, chairman of Isipingo Ratepayers, called the proposed increases “preposterous”.

“The city and the government should know the hardship ratepayers are going through; these increases are going to make life hell for the man in the street.

“We are battling to survive as it is and with petrol going up and up. How are we going to manage with further increases?” he said.

Nowbuth said that the municipal increases were not aligned to the quality of service rendered by the city.

“What the city should be doing is increasing its rates base because it is a known fact that the number of people who are non-ratepayers exceeds those who do pay for rates. They keep hitting those who pay for services and we have no other option but to pay,” he said.

Patrick Pillay, of the Minority Front, said residents should oppose the increases at the public budget hearings.

“The increases are going to have a major impact on ratepayers. The electricity tariff will hit people the hardest as it is unacceptably high. The city should be looking at reducing tariffs or giving residents a rates holiday because they have been slapped with above-inflation increases for a number of years now. The sad reality is that the poorest of the poor will be slammed with these increases, leaving a major hole in their pockets,” he said.

Mdu Nkosi of the IFP agreed.

“The facts of the matter are that people are not working; those who are working are not sure about their future. Even business people are suffering. So these increases are not helping these people. People are only going to suffer more because of this,” he said.

Daily News