Newcastle ratepayers to protest

2009-10-07 00:00

THE service delivery protests that have plagued municipalities across the country in recent weeks are far from over.

Today, Newcastle Municipality will be added to the list when fed-up ratepayers march through the streets in protest over service delivery issues.

Sipho Magudulela of the Newcastle Residents’ Forum said: “This follows an outcry from community members over exorbitant rates, electricity bills and many other service delivery issues, which have turned the town into a complete mockery.”

Chief among their grievances is the issue of rates tariffs. Magudulela said there were grave concerns about the property valuation process and the tariffs approved by council are unacceptable.

He said ratepayers are complaining that their rates have increased remarkably and they are unhappy with the way the municipality implemented the Municipal Property Rates Act.

Magudulela said the municipality failed to engage with the community before the implementation of the act, as the law requires, and people were merely informed of the new tariffs via newspaper notices.

“We told them ratepayers were unhappy with the implementation of the act, so we asked them to review it. They told us the issue of exorbitant rates was a debatable one, but they have clearly treated ratepayers and the law with contempt. There are no records to prove that they have engaged ratepayers over this,” he said.

He said residents are also reeling over their increased electricity bills and some may lose their homes as they simply cannot afford to pay such huge sums for municipal services.

He said people have written letters to the mayor and municipal manager, and even engaged with them in public meetings, yet nothing has been done to rectify the problems they face.

Magudulela said the mayor promised to give feedback via a memorandum of understanding (MOU) before the end of September, but they are still waiting for written correspondence.

“Gross incompetence is taking place and we have tried everything in the book to get them to take us seriously but they don’t seem to understand. Enough is enough. Discourteous and degrading service cannot be tolerated any longer,” he said.

Acting mayor Afzul Rehman said he has engaged with those responsible for organising the march on an ongoing basis for months and most of the issues have been resolved.

He promised further comment yesterday, but failed to respond by the time of going to print.

The march is scheduled to start at 11 am today at the park opposite the Mortimer Road Toyota/Engen garage.


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