Fears of unrest as proposed water tariff hikes spark anger
Cape Town - The City of Cape Town faces growing opposition and anger to the proposed tariff hikes for some services and has been lambasted for spending millions on non-water related projects during the drought.
Last week the council presented a draft budget which proposed tariff increases of up to 26.9% for water and sanitation which, if accepted, would see ratepayers paying more from July 1.
In addition to the tariff hikes, fixed charges for all water consumers have been introduced, depending on the size of the water meter.
Most people will pay either R56 a month or R100 and for those whose properties are valued at more than R1million an additional fixed tariff of R150 on electricity will apply.
Consumers using more than 10.5 kilolitres will have to pay R127.13 per kilolitre.
Commercial and industrial water users will pay a basic rate of R45.75 a kilolitre but will have the option of buying recycled water for as little as R5.90 per kilolitre.
But before the drought, commerce bought water for just under R19 a kilolitre.
In just a week after the tabling of the draft budget close to 15000 consumers voiced their objection to the proposed tariff increases through an online campaign started by STOP COCT.
STOP COCT’s Sandra Dickson said the proposed tariff increases needed to be analysed to understand the impact as consumers would be paying the City a lot more money.
“If you look at the current Level 6b increases they represent a 500%-plus increase in water tariffs and the new proposed tariffs will now add up to 83% to the water bill if one uses six kilolitres of municipal water,” Dickson said.
She criticised the current method of calculating sewerage bills as ‘grossly unfair’.
The organisation Save Cape Town is also taking on the council over the proposed tariff hikes.
The organisation’s Anne Smith said the tariff increases would “kill people, and small businesses”.
“They are insane, there’s going to be a revolt,” she warned.
Smith said consumers were already paying (more) for medical costs, school fees and food, which some have to buy on credit.
The organisation has planned a protest march on Friday to Parliament.
“We want to know what happens to the money that the City gets for water-related projects. We will put the City in its place,” Smith said.
Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry president Janine Myburgh said the City was running into trouble and rates and tariffs were now so high that many people, especially the retired, would have to downsize or move.
“We already know that many businesses are finding it cheaper to generate their own electricity with solar panels than buy it from the municipality and the same thing is happening with water.Some businesses will go off the water grid and the City will lose income,” she said.
“The key problem is the high cost of governance. The City employs 27249 permanent and temporary staff and has another 2486 vacancies. The City has budgeted for another three years of above-inflation pay increases plus notch increases.”
Senior staff at the City’s Water and Sanitation department will be moving to a new “state-of-the art” building at the end of next month.
The City said the move to the building in Hardekraaltjie was driven by “the need for greater efficiency”.
A critic of the move said the building was for administrative staff and would not in any way enhance service delivery.
“Leasing is not always a bad option for managing cash flow and rather using capital funding toward projects that fulfil mandate,” a source said.
“For efficient running of the water purification and treatment plants, an option is to have senior officials based at the core of their operations.”
The City also recently bought the Sacks Circle building in Bellville, estimated to have cost over R70m, for the fleet staff who had moved from the Hardekraaltjie premises being developed for the water and sanitation department.
The building, which houses some consultants to the City, was purchased in the 2016/17 financial year and according to sources it was not listed as a significant project in the budget for the same financial year.
Renovations to the building’s roof alone cost more than R10m , costs for installation of paving are above the market rate at about R900 per square metre and purchase of furniture of about R3m in a year.
“Funding is not a major issue for the City, the problem is the mismanagement of finances and the lack of financial prudence of the leadership,” a source said.
Mayoral committee member for water and sanitation Xanthea Limberg defended the decisions, saying the purchase of the building was to achieve “better financial and operational efficiency” and not to continue long-term leases.
“It is an attempt to reduce the need for leased facilities due to the lack of space for head office staff. The Water and Sanitation Department is the largest one in the City. By reducing operational expenses over the long-term the capital expenditure is expected to be recuperated.”