Ci­ti­zens say no to wa­ter hike

Re­volt at 15% hike for wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion

The Witness - - FRONT PAGE - KAILENE PIL­LAY

“It [tar­iff in­crease] is more than dou­ble in­fla­tion and we have no al­ter­na­tive but to op­pose any in­crease that ex­ceeds in­fla­tion, sim­ply be­cause busi­nesses are un­able be pass this level of in­crease on to cus­tomers in pric­ing.”

WITH the price of wa­ter al­ready “sig­nif­i­cantly” marked up by the mu­nic­i­pal­ity, an­other above­in­fla­tion 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 to­mor­row, 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 e­mail 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 e­mails 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.

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