Tariffs hike violate our rights, say marchers

2013-03-22 00:00

RAISING municipal tariffs to the point where they are unaffordable was a violation of human rights, a group of more than 300 marchers declared in the city centre yesterday.

They marched against Msunduzi Municipality’s proposed 10% electricity and water tariff increases, its imposition of prepaid meters at a cost of R2 500 to householders and its shoddy treatment of the poor in the city.

The event was organised by labour federation Cosatu and the SA Communist Party. They were joined by the Electricity Action Group, the National Taxi Alliance and the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Awareness, among others.

The organisers said that while the country celebrated Human Rights Day, those rights were being subtly undermined.

“On paper we are supposed to have access to water and electricity, things that were denied to us in the apartheid era, but we are reaching a point where most homes can no longer afford these services,” a memorandum to the city council read.

The memorandum was presented to Msunduzi executive committee member Eunice Majola. Among the demands were:

•A call for a moratorium on the proposed municipal service tariff increases and for a restructuring of the tariffs to affordable levels. This, the memorandum said, would do away with the “degrading” indigent policy by which poor people are subject to additional and poorly administered means tests.

•The entire “equitable share” — not just a portion of the money that the government grants to the municipality — should be used to provide a free package of municipal services to poor households. “The current practice whereby only R10 million out of R304 million given to the municipality [four percent] is used for free basic services must be immediately corrected,” the memorandum said.

The marchers made a plea for municipalities to consider the link between gender violence and frustrations in homes.

“These frustrations have exploded into homes via way of taps that will not run and lights that will not shine and plates with no food. They have turned homes into new battlegrounds where power relations are heavily contested, and it is most often women who pay the price.”

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