‘I wish I could pee in the bush’
Knysna ratepayers are up in arms over the municipality’s adopted 80% increase in sewerage and water tariffs and the Knysna Ratepayers’ Association has come out strongly against the new method of calculating the tariffs.
Some residents don’t want to pay the increases, such as Pezula resident Barry Webster. “If it were possible I would disconnect my sewerage service and go toilet in the bush. How can they expect us to afford such a high increase?” he asks, adding that the municipality has failed to apply the rebate for pensioners. According to his calculations, the municipality has been charging him the full increase since August.
‘No choice to hike tariffs’
Mayor Mark Willemse announced recently that water and sewerage tariffs charged in 2017/18 failed to cover the costs of delivering the services and council had no choice but to hike the tariffs. The municipality was initially advised to hike the tariffs by 140%, he said, but after a public participation process the tariffs were reduced to 80%.
The KRA has responded with scepticism: “’How can it be reduced to 80%? Where is the other 60% coming from now?” a spokesperson says.
The association’s bone of contention is the new method used to calculate the tariffs. Whereas the municipality used to charge one tariff for an entire building, now, according to Willemse, a basic charge will apply for each property connected to a sewerage reticulation, “per dwelling, per unit, per premises, irrespective of the number of toilet/ urinals or the size of the dwelling, dwelling units, business units/shops per premises”.
Resident Lara Fenton says they have a small business in Tide Street and because of these high tariffs, all businesses in the street will close. “They (the municipality) haven’t proved themselves but continue to demand exorbitant tariffs,” she says.
The KRA says the municipality has now created an unbalanced system that will have a great impact on small businesses, which are now charged for every unit in a commercial complex, so that a small shop of 25sq m that makes use of a communal toilet in the building will pay the same as a 2 500sq m supermarket. “This … will cause many small, already struggling businesses to fail,” the KRA states.
Commercial property owner Francois Lamprecht says his billing increased from R5 000 to R115 000 a year, which will need to be passed on to the tenants. “Most tenants cannot afford this. The municipality needs to realise that there is a lot of poor people living in Knysna. Rather create jobs than bill us such amounts.”
Lamprecht says he has tried every possible avenue to reach a deal with the municipality, but that there is “no willingness” to be reasonable.
The KRA says the municipality should have explored other methods of billing, such as the Cape Town tariff system.
“There the sewerage charges are related to a percentage of the total water consumption of the property, which can then be fairly and accurately attributed to the volume of sewerage per property. When it comes to the business/per unit/per shop/per premises scenario, the unit is charged on the percentage of the entire property that it represents,” the KRA states, concluding, “To make the billing system for the municipality simple, to the detriment of the residents, is unacceptable.”