Uproar over tariffs approval

2017-06-01 13:45
Big tariff hike passed despite criticism.

Big tariff hike passed despite criticism. (File)

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Despite criticism, the contentious municipal tariffs for the new financial year were adopted by the city’s decision-makers on Wednesday.

The approved tariffs included the strongly opposed 3,08% electricity hike and the 15% water tariff increases, although opposition parties made their reservations known at yesterday’s full council meeting.

Msunduzi residents will see the effect of the tariff increases on their municipal accounts from July 1 this year.

Delivering the final budget for the 2017/2018 financial year, Msunduzi chief financial officer Nelisiwe Ngcobo said the electricity tariff needed to be increased to assist in upgrading the electricity infrastructure in the city.

Ngcobo said the National Electricity Regulator (Nersa) agreed to Msunduzi’s increase over and above their recommendation of 1,88%.

“In principal this [the 3,08% increase] has been accepted by Nersa. The funds from the increase will be ring-fenced for maintenance to ageing infrastructure and the balance that is needed will be funded by the municipality,” Ngcobo said.

Property rates, refuse, sanitation and other tariffs are set to be increased by 6,4%.

Rienus Niemand, of the African Christian Democratic Party, said that the “exorbitant” tariffs were “discouraging industry and job creation” in the city.

He asked if increasing the tariffs to make funds available for maintenance was “an admittance that no upgrades and maintenance was ever done?”

The caucus leader of the DA, Sibongiseni Majola, said they could not support a budget that inflated tariffs above the national inflation rate.

“Increasing the tariffs is a short-sighted solution,” Majola said.

Rooksana Ahmed of the DA said that a good budget spoke to the majority of residents in the city, however the budget that was presented yesterday did not speak to the “poorest of the poor”.

In a lengthy speech to the council, Msunduzi mayor Themba Njilo disagreed that the poor were not considered when developing the budget.

He said due to the prevailing drought conditions, the 15% increase in the water tariff was informed by the city’s bulk supplier, Umgeni Water.

“The municipality did not consider any operational costs mark-up in solidarity with our community and more particularly the poor,” Njilo said.

Those on the indigent programme will be subsidised with six kilolitres.

Highlighting the municipal vision of creating a safe, vibrant city for work and family lifestyles, Njilo said the city would be investing significant funds to achieve the vision.

The city has allocated R1,9 million to completing the regional athletics track while R6,9 million has been allocated to developing a sports centre in Vulindlela.

The Integrated Rapid Transport Network project will continue this financial year with R189 million allocated for the project.

About R13 million has been set aside for basic water upgrades and roughly R12 million for basic sanitation infrastructure.

Did the Acting City Manager act unethically?

Opposition parties called it a “strange act” when Acting City Manager Sizwe Hadebe stood up and danced along with ANC councillors after the 2017/2018 budget was presented.

ANC councillors showed their support for the budget by singing liberation songs and danced during a Full Council meeting on Wednesday.

Hadebe could also be seen dancing and singing on the podium while Msunduzi Speaker Jabu Ngubo called for order.

Bukelani Zuma from the IFP said he found it strange for an Accounting Officer to behave in that manner.

“I just want to place it on record that the Accounting Officer acted unethically in our view,” Zuma said.

The DA supported Zuma’s comments.

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