Despite tariff reversal, residents still seek clarity with help of lawyer

2014-01-24 00:00

MSUNDUZI’S crippling commercial tariffs may have been reversed, but it appears the tariff battle is far from over.

The National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) said yesterday that it was still in discussions with Msunduzi over the tariffs — a day after the council decided to reverse the controversial charges after being instructed to do so in a letter from the regulator.

Pietermaritzburg lawyer Sundeep Singh, acting on behalf of various community organisations, said the residents of the city had been through enough anxiety and it was time for finality.

The fact that discussions were still on emerged when Singh contacted Nersa wanting to know the outcome of the appeal that the municipality had lodged against Nersa’s decision to peg the increases at seven percent.

Msunduzi wanted a 10% increase.

He received a response saying that discussions between the energy regulator and Msunduzi regarding the approved tariffs were still in progress.

He sent another letter yesterday expressing his concern that Nersa was being evasive and “failed to comply with duties in ensuring that your decisions are made public”.

“We confirm that the National Energy Regulators Act of 2004 makes it obligatory on you to ensure that you act in fairness and in a transparent manner.”

The letter went on to insist that Nersa let his clients know whether the appeal has been finalised.

Singh said if he did not receive a response to his letter he would bring a legal application against Nersa, together with an appropriate punitive order of costs.

He advised the energy regulator that the matter was of, “great concern to both the residents and the business sectors of Msunduzi Municipality ... as we respectfully submit that our client’s constitutional rights are being violated not only by Msunduzi Municipality, even by yourselves”.

Singh also sent a letter to the municipality with a number of demands, including that all payments on the incorrect tariffs be refunded.

Lishen Maharaj of Matthew Francis Incorporated confirmed that they had been instructed by the municipality to act on its behalf in dealing with Singh’s requests.

Maharaj said he could not respond at this stage as the legal team would be meeting with municipal officials today to take their instructions.

Singh is acting on behalf of the Cinderella Park Community Organisation, who represent the domestic sector, and the PMB East Business Forum.

He said his applications would be class actions and would represent the residents and businesses in the city.

The Msunduzi Action Forum formed as a result of the tariff debacle, have not halted their activities now that the tariffs have been reversed.

Convenor Dev Naidoo said that as a result of the community meeting, they realise there are huge billing challenges in Msunduzi.

One option under consideration is the formation of a help desk, to help sort out billing queries.

• nalini@witness.co.za

Nersa sent a letter to The Witness yesterday stating that it had not sent the letter read by Pieterma-ritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB) CEO Melanie Veness on the reversal of tariffs, straight to her, as was reported in the newspaper.

The letter had in fact been sent to the Msunduzi Municipality, which had given a copy to the PCB. Veness confirmed that this was the case.

Nersa spokesperson Charles Hlebela went on to say that discussions between Nersa and Msunduzi Municipality were still in progress.

The service delivery march set for Pietermaritzburg today will continue, despite a faction of the South African National Civics Organisation (Sanco) distancing itself from the march.

March organiser Zakhele Hlatswayo said yesterday afternoon the march will start at Dales Park in Mayor’s Walk. Participants will start gathering from early and proceed from there to the city hall via Mayor’s Walk, West Street, Langalibalele Street and then Chief Albert Luthuli Street. Proceedings are expected to end by 2.30 pm.

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