Ratepayers still disappointed after the eThekwini Municipality reduces tariff increases
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DURBAN - eThekwini Municipality has given some relief to residents who were upset at the increases the city proposed for rates and utilities.
Rates have now been increased by 4.9% rather than the proposed 6.9%. As of July, electricity goes up by 6.2% (the initial proposal was 6.9%), water by 9.5% (9.9%) and sewage by 6.4% (9.9%).
These hikes were voted and accepted by council last Friday.
The following parties voted in favour of the increases: the ANC, IFP, APC, ID and Al Jama-ah.
The DA, EFF, MF, Mosa and DLC voted against the budget on the basis that the increases were not affordable.
Belinda Scott, the deputy mayor, addressed the criticism that was levelled at the proposed hikes.
Scott, who is a member of the ANC, said her party was committed to service delivery. She said that despite the current economic crisis that had been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the city had tabled a realistic, fully-funded, balanced and credible budget.
She accused the DA of politicking when the budget was made public. She said it was due to the ANC’s direct intervention that the city had managed to ensure that the increases were the lowest in the past six years.
“There are two sides to the challenges of revenue collection. The city is finding some consumers, who are gainfully employed, using the Covid crisis not to pay their service-related bills, versus the genuine destitute who are in dire need of assistance.
"As per the national government directive, the council has to resume the credit control and debt collection process as of July 1.”
Scott added that the city gave assurances that those who could not afford to pay would be able to enter into an arrangement with the municipality.
IFP member and eThekwini council member Mdu Nkosi said although they had initially opposed the draft budget, they voted in favour after mayor Mxolisi Kaunda and his team reduced the increases.
“In the previous year, we voted against the budget because the figures were way too high. I think water was over 15%. We understand poor people will suffer, but we commend the mayor and his team. They tried by all means to cut the budget and push the tariffs down.
“Last year, the city’s operating budget was R50 million. This year, it’s R32 million. This budget is a well-considered one, and we did not see the need to vote against the budget. Just because we’re an opposition party, it doesn’t mean we should oppose everything.”
Nkosi said the IFP would, however, ask the city to be more transparent with how money was spent.
“Money was given by national (government) to deal with Covid-19. Most of the money went towards homeless shelters and rehabilitation centres.
"It’s high time the city screens those who claim to be homeless because not everyone is homeless. They should also check if those homeless people are wanted for criminal activities.”
Several ratepayer groups expressed disappointment after eThekwini’s budget was approved.
Many had lobbied against the increases and told the POST that some residents would not be able to afford the increases, even after they were trimmed.
Teddy Govender, chairperson of the Chatsworth and District Civic Federation, said the municipality had once again not listened to ratepayers.
“More than 1 000 people responded to the proposed budget. Most of them are barely surviving and are struggling to meet their present commitments to the municipality.
“How will they now afford the increases to lights, water and refuse? The majority of the paying public, who I call ‘the missing middle’, have fallen through the cracks. They are finding it difficult to cope and it’s unfortunate that the city did not hear its residents’ cries.”
Ish Phalad, the chairperson of the Reservoir Hills Ratepayers Association, said there should not have been any increases.
“Right now, we are all struggling. Covid-19 has affected everyone and has left people in debt. Some have been retrenched or didn’t have a job to go back to. Others have taken salary cuts.
“For the municipality to increase the tariffs is not on. This area used to be considered a rich area but now people are selling their beautiful homes to live in outbuildings, because they cannot meet their financial commitments. We continue to pay more taxes and higher tariffs but there is no financial relief for us.”
Navin Dookran, the chairperson of the Clare Estate Ratepayers Association, said that last year he had requested a meeting with mayor Mxolisi Kaunda, to discuss the increase in rates as well as the fact that there were a number of informal settlements in the area.
He said he had not yet received a response. Dookran also said that he believed there should be no increase for the next five years.
“Every area, including mine, has been hit badly with crime and informal settlements. We need to sort these issues out. We need to recover from the financial loss of the lockdown and focus on things like employment, before we start talking about increasing tariffs.
“At the moment, the residents of informal settlements are using our electricity and water and we, the residents, have to pay for it. It’s not fair.”
Sammy Sayed, chairperson of the Merebank Residents Association, said the municipality was insensitive.
“People are struggling to put food on their tables but the municipality is demanding more money. It’s insensitive. There is no money available at the moment and this area is not affluent. Our people live below average lives. Companies have agreed to help people. Why can’t the municipality do the same for residents?”