Johannesburg – Joburg residents who are on prepaid electricity meters face a R200 a month fee before they even start purchasing power.
The City of Joburg has released its proposed tariffs for 2021/22 for comment.
Other proposed increases include 2% for property rates, 6.8% for water, 6.8% for sewerage, 9 to 18% for electricity, a R200 charge for a pre-paid residential meter and R400 for prepaid business, 4.3% for refuse collection and a R50 charge for recycling in “affluent areas”. All of these amounts exclude VAT.
Said DA Joburg leader Leah Knott: “We see that the City is sneaking in the R200 charge which we oppose. We should be encouraging everyone to move to pre-paid, not penalising them. This targets the poorest-of-the-poor who turn to pre-paid meters to save on costs.
“Now, before they even purchase one unit, they have to pay this fee. We opposed this last year and the City eventually dropped this cost. Most of the increases for water, electricity, sewerage, and all other City services are far above inflation and ignore the dire economic situation we are in.”
According to the South African Property Owners Association, since 2008 rates have increased by a cumulative 318%, while the consumer price index has only increased by 78%.
“Even for those who are not property owners, electricity and water tariffs continue to climb even above the increases by suppliers such as Eskom and Rand Water. This hits not only the most vulnerable in our society, who must commit scarce resources to these essentials, but the middle class, who are being squeezed beyond their ability to pay,” Knott said.
The flat tariffs for sewerage and refuse removal have also increased especially for those living in apartments or complexes that were recently unilaterally declared “multi-unit dwellings” by the City, which promptly doubled sewerage charges and sent bills for backdated amounts. Some bodies corporate were hit by multimillion rand bills.
The increase in the charge for pre-termination notices to R276 is “especially galling” and the charge should be scrapped – the contractors they use to deliver these pre-termination notices are making a fortune off the back of residents, she added.
The R50 recycling charge should be a rebate for residents to encourage recycling – “again, we should not be penalising positive behaviour,” Knott said.
The city member of the mayoral committee for finance, Jolidee Matongo, said the proposed tariffs and budget reports were a culmination of a consultative process, which considered ratepayers’ and other stakeholder inputs expressed during community-based planning sessions held recently.
“These provided residents at ward level an opportunity to directly make contributions by expressing their service delivery aspirations. These engagements were held virtually in all regions of the city. Residents indicated priority areas we should focus on,” he added.
They want basic service delivered. Potholes must be filled, dysfunctional traffic lights must be fixed, overgrown grass must be cut, housing provided to those in need and infrastructure projects implemented to create employment.
Due to the Covid-19 lockdown and economic downturn, a balance was needed between what is realistic for the City financially and what residents hoped it could provide, said the MMC.
A big percentage of the annual operational and capital expenditure was funded by revenue generated independently. The revenue was earned from property rates tax levied on domestic and commercial properties. There were also service charges on electricity, water, sewerage and refuse. The City also earned interest from fines, forfeits and penalties. A marginal portion was earned from operating grants, therefore to remain financially sustainable, tariff increases had to be considered.
Matongo encouraged residents to give their feedback. The report is available on the City’s website and residents should submit comments by May 8.
Public participation meetings will also be held until May 5. Details are available from www.joburg.org.za.