More citizens can now qualify for indigent policy

2013-04-02 00:00

MSUNDUZI Municipality has heeded the pleas of pensioners and the poor and reviewed its proposed indigent policy.

The new draft proposes a total household income of R3 200 to qualify for indigent status.

Previously, the income ceiling had been set at R2 400. In addition, basic electricity and water charges will be waived. There will be no charge for water and refuse removal.

People on the indigent policy will qualify for 60 kilowatts of free electricity and seven kilolitres of free water. In addition, they qualify for a further 4,2 kilolitres of water consumption for sewerage use.

The previous proposed policy which did not give the poor all these benefits was heavily criticised for treating the poor with contempt. Pensioners from local retirement homes questioned how they were expected to survive when most of their pension was going to pay their municipal utility bills.

The form that the poor were expected to fill in to qualify for indigent status was also criticised for being a “cut and paste job” and poorly conceptualised.

A full council sitting on Wednesday last week, heard that the forms had been revised and that additional work was being done to craft forms that are more user-friendly.

Councillors were urged to take the forms to families who qualify for indigent status and get them filled.

In addition, administrators of retirement homes, orphanages and disability centres were encouraged to pick up forms and get them filled in. Bongani Ngobese, process manager for revenue, said that the deadline has been extended to April 15 to register, but if there were cases that came up after that date they would be considered.

The changes to the draft policy were welcomed by pensioners and organisations that work with poorer communities.

However, the issue of those who filled in forms last year to qualify for indigent status, but were forced to pay the same rates as everyone else because the forms were not processed, was raised.

The Pietermaritzburg and District Council for the Aged (Padca) continues its campaign to get that addressed and has been seeking legal advice on the matter.

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