You rubbish hasn’t been collected, the grass in front of your house is overgrown and your street is littered with potholes.Yet every month you are slapped with a municipal bill and have to fork out for rates and other mandatory service charges. And if you withhold payment then the Msunduzi Municipality will undoubtedly swoop in and leave you in the dark. What can you do?Certainly not withhold payment, said a well-known Pietermaritzburg attorney who did not wish to be named for fear of victimisation.Below are the questions he was asked and his responses:Can municipalities charge for refuse removal yet not provide the service?The simple fact is that municipalities should not be charging for services that they are not rendering.On a standard utility account the sum of approximately R121 per month is charged for refuse removal.Refuse is supposed to be collected once a week in all areas. The municipality has an obligation to credit the consumer for each passing week that it does not provide this service.This should be as a matter of course and not simply the municipality responding to demands for the same.What about the electricity charges?Msunduzi Municipality has an ampere charge of approximately R499 a month and a basic charge of about R33 a month.It is one of the few municipalities that has imposed this charge and this is a standard charge even before any electricity is consumed.Consumers have a duty to promptly pay their electricity account as used.The main issue is the brazen theft of electricity and water and nothing being done by the municipality.There seems to be no willpower to deal with this issue of illegal connections of both water and electricity. There is possibly millions of rands of electricity and water that is being stolen and it is simply being dumped on the paying public to carry these losses.If the municipality deals effectively with this rampant theft of electricity and water, it would bring a substantial reduction in the prices currently paid by the paying consumers. Why do we pay sewage charges?Currently approximately R187 per month is being charged by the municipality. The community needs to demand how this levy is used and what maintenance and repairs are carried out using the money.Of concern to most of the community is that most of the storm water drains are clogged. The recent heavy rains clearly demonstrated this. Despite widespread damage to residences and businesses, there has been no dedicated attempt by the municipality to maintain and clean out all these drains. Again, the community should hold the municipality accountable for this.What about our water charges?There is a basic charge on an average bill of R25. Again, the infrastructure is collapsing as can be seen by the burst pipes throughout the municipality.It is extremely slow to respond to fix the water leaks and a precious resource is wasted.Obviously, the paying consumer is carrying the weight of this loss.And rates?This is an avenue used by most municipalities to raise funds to inter alia, provide services.One only has to look at any municipality and the poor state of their roads, the lack of grass cutting and maintenance and defective street lights, which clearly show that the funds raised are not being used to provide core services.With all that said what exactly can residents do?The community as a whole needs to come together and hold officials accountable. The rampant theft and fraud exists in municipalities and yet no one has gone to jail.In the absence of co-operation from the municipality, the community should as a last resort approach the courts to assist.The attorney said it seems that the entire drive by the municipality is to raise money simply to pay bloated salaries rather than provide services.There should be more people at grassroots level providing services than sitting in offices.“There is a definite lack of supervision of the staff, both administratively and on the ground as can be seen by the poor state of many municipalities.“Numerous grass cutting teams spend most of the time resting or sleeping rather than working,” he said.This applies to other departments as well. Many working hours in the day are lost or squandered due to laziness.It is not unusual to find a whole team of municipal workers sitting idle at a work site with one person working and the rest sitting around doing nothing. There is a clear lack of work ethic across all municipal departments.“When last did their managers, supervisors etc do a work audit on staff and get rid of the dead wood within the system. The pathetic services rendered are clear for all to see except for the management of the municipality,” he said.Msunduzi Municipality was asked to comment on these questions and given until Thursday 4 pm to respond.None was received by on Friday. Should the municipality respond, it will be carried in next week’s Weekend Witness.An umbrella body for PMB ratepayersResidents of Pietermaritzburg are constantly up in arms, complaining about the municipality not delivering services.Anthony Waldhausen has convened the Msunduzi Association for Residents and Ratepayers. It is an umbrella body for all the ratepayers’ associations in Pietermaritzburg.He said the aim of the new body is to hold the municipality accountability and get them to provide the services residents are paying for.So far several new associations have been formed and Waldhausen said that at the end of March there should be 12 in total.“We are coming as a big force so that we can meet and hold them accountable.“We need to be united as residents. We have written a letter to the chairperson of the municipal public accounts committee focusing on the valuation roll progress. They were given 10 days to reply. They have not even acknowledged the letter,” he said.Waldhausen added that the aim is to first exhaust all internal remedies.He said if things don’t get better they will consider bringing a class action suit against the municipality.Not a day goes by that The Witness does not receive a call from at least one irate resident complaining about overgrown verges, potholes, burst pipes or something that the municipality has failed to attend to.People also write letters about this.Naresh Ramkillawan wrote that the refuse from the Jinnah/Sharjah Road area was scheduled to be picked up on February 27 and this has not yet been done.“This is not the first time. Mr Ramaphosa, what are you going to do about it? Should we deduct the refuse collection fees from our monthly bill and go and dump our refuse at the Northdale Stadium.“Must we boycott payments to this incompetent municipality or vote them out at the next election”.