21% Midlands water hike

2018-06-01 16:00

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While Pietermaritzburg’s water tariff hike will be pegged at 13,08%, uMgungundlovu District customers could pay between 21% (for low usage) and 45% (for high usage) more for water when the municipality’s contentious tariffs come into effect in July.

During Thursday’s special full council meeting both the DA and the IFP rejected the district’s 2018/2019 R1 billon budget, saying the proposed water tariffs are unaffordable and will place an even heavier burden on the municipality’s customers.

As the water service authority, uMgungundlovu­’s core functions are environmental health, water and sanitation. It supplies water to consumers in six of its seven local municipalities; Msunduzi is a water service authority in its own right.

The minimum increase of 21% includes the proposed 15% hike by Umgeni Water plus the six percent inflation rate. A 45% increase is proposed for high usage domestic users and businesses.

District mayor Thobekile Maphumulo said the needs of the people and service delivery were prioritised when the budget was put together. “We were ... mindful ... that the ability of council to deliver such services also depends on the extent to which the municipality is able to generate revenue. A balancing act was therefore a critical consideration.”

She said the proposed tariffs are cost reflective and offer sustainability in terms of the provision of services.

Maphumulo acknowledged that the municipality is grappling with ageing infrastructure, saying there is a maintenance plan in the works. She said R202 million of the R207,5 million capital expenditure allocation will be spent on water infrastructure upgrades and maintenance. This will also ensure that people in tanker-supplied areas such as Maqongqo have access to water and that the operational cost of providing water tankers will be concerted into billable revenue generation.

DA councillor Janis Holmes said the municipality’s customers are still struggling with the 21% to 37% tariff hike from the 2017/2018 budget.

“Our budget is supposed to be based on public consultation. The public has told you that they can’t afford this. Last year when we had the exact same increase, except for the maximum which was 37%, there was a general outcry from the public,” she said.

Another DA councillor, Bongumusa Nhlabathi, said these increases will be a direct burden on local business and will suppress economic development and further decrease already scarce job opportunities. “How can this municipality expect the uMgungundlovu residents and businesses to foot the bill for a municipality that only collects half of the revenue billed?” he said.

He called for a meter audit and more funding to be directed to upgrading infrastructure. His sentiments were echoed by the IFP’s Bukelani Zuma, who said the municipality is “punishing our customers when we should be getting our own house in order first by collecting revenue and making sure we don’t lose water”.

The ANC’s Mlungisi Zondi said Maphumulo’s budget showed a willingness to assist vulnerable communities and make sure the infrastructure plan is in place to fast-track service delivery.

District manager Dr Ray Ngcobo said the tariffs are cost reflective and include the costs incurred by the municipality for buying, treating and distributing water. He said all the costs related to water are passed on to consumers. He said there is a plan to audit meters.

Maphumulo said the budget is still open for public comment.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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