New city tariffs ‘an outrage’

2017-03-16 17:48
Nersa asks 2,2% more, Msunduzi ups rate 8%.

Nersa asks 2,2% more, Msunduzi ups rate 8%. (File)

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Civic action groups say the proposed municipal tariff increases are an outrage and will cause widespread poverty in the city. The groups spoke out following a public meeting held by the municipality which revealed their proposed tariff increases.

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

Msunduzi spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said the public had until April 15 to comment on the proposed tariff increases and could deliver their written comments to the office of the municipal manager or to Denise Zuma on the eighth floor of the Professor Nyembezi Building.

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.

Pacsa handed over their comments to the municipality during a meeting at the City Hall on Monday evening.

The public also expressed disappointment that the municipality separated the business sector from the residents by holding separate meetings over two days.

Smith said the tariffs showed 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.

The National Energy Regulator (Nersa) proposed a 2,2% increase and the local Electricity Action Group (EAG) are now questioning the municipality’s motive. “Unemployment is too high and wages are too low. Our pensions and child support grants are too low and we are really struggling,” said Bonginkosi Sibisi of EAG.

He said pensioners only saw a R90 increase this year and the child support grant increased by just R20. “The municipality make it impossible for us to afford electricity and then they penalise, threaten and harass us to pay. They fine us and put us in debt collection for illegitimate arrears,” he said.

The EAG also handed their detailed four-page submission to the municipality this week.

Sibisi said their submission was “an attempt to show the municipality what is happening on the ground”.

In their submission, the EAG demanded that council visit the areas to see how people use wood, paraffin and candles because they cannot afford electricity.

Dennis Ntombela from the IFP said he had not yet looked at the proposed tariff increases and could not comment yesterday.

The Witness did not receive the DA’s response by the time of going to print.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  msunduzi municipality

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