Citizens say no to water hike

2017-05-30 13:30
Revolt at 15% hike for water and sanitation.

Revolt at 15% hike for water and sanitation. (File)

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With the price of water already “significantly” marked up by the municipality, another above-inflation increase is just not acceptable.

This is the view of local residents and businesses already reeling under the threat of the proposed massive electricty price hike by Msunduzi.

A full council meeting will be held on Wednesday, where the municipality will reveal their tariffs for the new financial year, following representations by civic and business organisations.

Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said that council received all submissions from the public and business, which were taken into consideration.

Civic and business organisations have unanimously opposed the proposed 15% increase for water.

The tariff debacle came to light recently when Msunduzi Municipality proposed a 3,08% increase on electricity tariffs — a figure well above the level set by the National Electricity Regulator (Nersa).

With their submissions handed in to Nersa for consideration, locals said, they now also have to tackle the water tariff.

Msunduzi Municipality is proposing that rates increase by 6,1%, electricity by 3,08%, water and sanitation by 15%, and waste removal by 6,1% for the 2017/2018 financial year.

The Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business said they strongly object to the proposed water tariff increase and believe that should the tariff be passed at full council, it would be difficult to defend in the current economic circumstances.

“It is more than double inflation and we have no alternative but to oppose any increase that exceeds inflation, simply because businesses are unable to pass this level of increase on to customers in pricing,” said CEO of PCB Melanie Veness.

Veness said she understood that Umgeni Water intended to pass on a 15% increase to its customers, which include Msunduzi Municipality, but this increase in the cost of water “cannot be used as a justification for the application of a similar increase on the onward sale of water to consumers, because water is marked up significantly”.

She said at the lowest commercial tariff, water was already marked up by 353% and at the highest, it was marked by 462%. “Msunduzi would more than recover the Umgeni increase of 15%, if an affordable tariff increase of five percent was put in place,” Veness suggested in an e-mail to The Witness.

Minnesh Parmanand from the Msunduzi Rates Forum said he wrote to the municipality last week calling for the tariff increases to be reconsidered.

“The increases are just ridiculous and unacceptable and people simply will not be able to afford it,” Parmanand said.

Chair of the Scottsville Ratepayers Association, Dr Peter Green, said ratepayers would only be able to consider the increases after a complete and detailed infrastructure maintenance plan was made public.

“We cannot say the increase is needed for maintenance if we have not even seen a plan yet.

“The municipality are buying brand new cars for the mayor and deputy mayor and are not spending our money responsibly,” Green said.

He said although ratepayers have not taken to the streets in protest, “it seems like that is the only time the municipality listens so maybe we will have to march from Scottsville to the City Hall”.

Green also said the municipality did not properly inform residents of the public meetings to discuss the tariff increases.

“I was only informed of the meeting the day before it happened, and that was only because someone saw it in the paper and contacted me.

“We are always sending e-mails to the municipality so they could have let us know well in advance and we could have let our residents know in time,” he said.

Julie Smith from the Pietermaritzburg Agency for Community Social Action (Pacsa) said the proposed tariffs were “not equitable and do not ensure affordability”.

“For us, the local municipal budget and tariff deliberation processes are about Pietermaritzburg society together deciding how best to share resources equitably so that all people have access to the public goods and municipal services we require to live at a level of dignity,” said Smith.

She said the tariffs showed that the council either did not understand that this was their chance to serve a political vision for the city, or their vision was one of exclusion, deepening poverty and privileging the elite.

“They simply do not respond to the affordability crisis facing a substantial portion of our society and will instead worsen and entrench this crisis,” she said.

Smith suggested the municipality seek urgent political, technical and legal intervention as the council did not provide an affordability analysis to guide its tariffs.

She said there was no evidence that the proposed tariff increases were based on any “real analysis” of current local and national economic, unemployment and affordability challenges.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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