The City of Joburg has decided to scrap the R200 levy it intended charging all pre-paid meters customers for the next financial year. Picture: Danie van der Lith/African News Agency
The City of Joburg has decided to scrap the R200 levy it intended charging all pre-paid meters customers for the next financial year. Picture: Danie van der Lith/African News Agency

City of Joburg scraps prepaid levy

By Anna Cox Time of article published Jun 26, 2020

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It’s good news for Joburg residents. The City of Joburg has decided to scrap the R200 levy it intended charging all pre-paid meters customers for the next financial year.

This is in spite of the collection of revenue not going well with rates this month , with only R1.8 billion of the R3.8bn target reached.

During the proposed 2020/21 budget, the city announced that the surcharge, an “availability charge” would be levied. This resulted in a huge outcry by residents and owners of lower-income inner-city properties, who vowed to fight this tooth and nail, saying this levy would be hitting the poorest-of-the-poor hard and would result in tenants vacating their units.

Mayco member for finance Jolidee Matongo said the proposals would not be tabled in the final budget.

“We decided not to implement this surcharge as the economy is bad and we took the large number of objections into account. Our revenue collection is very low during these times but we had to take residents’ financial problems into account,” he said.

Although there were no cut-offs in the city for arrears, as they are illegal in terms of lockdown, pre-termination notices are still being served and will be implemented after lockdown. 

Matongo appealed to residents to pay what they could every month.

“People must communicate with us if they are having financial problems. They must just not ignore us. We will enter into a repayment agreement and, in certain cases, if they cannot afford the 50% deposit required on arrears, we will be flexible.” 

The MMC said the city had incurred huge costs during the Covid-19 spread.

“We have had to supply water tankers all over, we have had to increase our refuse removal services to three times a day in certain areas,” he said.

Matongo also said relief packages for rates were being looked at for the business community during lockdown.

The city had hosted a virtual property stakeholder engagement to encourage and record feedback on the tariffs.

“The engagement, which attracted significant interest from the targeted stakeholders, offered a platform where we had open discussions on the proposed property taxes, water and electricity increases, as well as the related rebates. 

When we began the process of drafting the proposals, the city’s leadership met the respective departments, and we collectively agreed on some principles and ideals garnered from residents, the city’s staff and our various stakeholders.

“The challenge in today’s world – particularly in an economic hub like Joburg – is that it’s all about ensuring that increases are equitable and affordable, hence the necessity to engage stakeholders across sectors as the city has undertaken,” he said.

Speaking on the proposed 6.4% increase, which was reduced to 4%, Matongo said the city had not decided on this, it was a national figure for all workers from cleaners to judges.

One DA councillor of ward 98, Beverley Jacobs, said she would be donating her entire 4% increase proportionately across the suburbs in her ward.

“Seeing the devastating affects such as loss of income, pay reductions, retrenchments and short time, the lockdown has had for many residents in my ward, I will be ploughing my increase back into the community,” she said.

Jacobs has 11 suburbs in her ward and each will receive a turn to receive the contribution either through the residents’ associations, community policing forums, NGOs or clean-up initiatives.

“I understand and acknowledge that this gesture will not alter/change or make a dent in the actual funds needed to reverse the destruction caused by the lockdown, but it is a start and a gesture of my commitment to a better community,” she added.

The ward consists of areas such as Aldara Park, Berario, Cresta, Northcliff and Darrenwood. 

@annacox

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