Protesters show their ire over proposed tariff increases

Signs were waiting for people who marched to Parliament to oppose the proposed budget.

Members of Dear Cape Town, Stop City of Cape Town (Stop COCT), Save Cape Town, and other residents were disappointed when the relevant authorities did not show up to receive their memorandum at Parliament on Friday.

The group marched through the city centre to Parliament to oppose the proposed tariff increases, tabled for the 2018/19 budget.

About 100 people walked through Darling Street shouting: “Water is our right” and “Down with City of Cape Town”.

Mayor Patricia de Lille presented the proposed budget to a full council sitting on Wednesday March 28.

It included increases of 29.6% for water, 7.2% for rates, 8.1% for electricity, 26.9% for sanitation and 5.7% for refuse.

Added to the increases, the City wants residents to pay a new monthly levy, which is based on the size of the pipe feeding water to their homes, and starts at R56 a month for a 15mm pipe up to R2 500 for a maximum of 300mm.

Domestic customers will be moved to a home-user tariff and those with a property valued at more than R1 million will have to pay a monthly R150 service charge.

The R49.1 billion budget comprises of a R39.8 billion operating budget and R9.2 billion for capital expenditure.

At the march, Judge Kruger, the organiser and member of Dear Cape Town, expressed disappointment that Xanthea Limberg, the mayoral committee (mayco) member for informal settlements, water and waste services; and energy, DA leader Mmusi Maimane and JP Smith, mayoral committee member for safety and security; and social services, were not present to receive their memorandum, but sent representatives from their offices to collect it.

“It seems that we were not important enough, as the Mayco members couldn’t make it today,” he told a despondent crowd.

The memorandum given to officials sent by the Mayco members, compiled by Dear Cape Town, was also handed to the public protector’s office and received by Sune Ariessel, the provincial representative.

Capetonians asked the public protector to investigate the City council’s proposed water price rise.

“We will evaluate and assess the information in the memorandum and if there are complaints, we will register it and find grounds for an investigation.

“It won’t happen overnight, but we will be in constant consultation with the City,” she said.

The memorandum included concerns that the Department of Safety and Security violated people’s rights with installations of water management devices (WMD), which people are being charged around R4 000 for; a request to see the tender documents of the companies who are contracted to install the WMDs; a request for the City to do more when it comes to public participation and to look at using local expertise for desalination.

Mr Kruger said the majority of the people are unhappy with the proposed budget, and they want to tell the City so.

“We want people to stand up for their rights.”

Annie Smith, one of the march organisers, said they feel that the City of Cape Town hasn’t followed protocol, and treats residents like idiots.

“Most people cannot afford any more increases. We attended a meeting in Elsies River last week, and we could see how people were being ripped off. As the residents of Cape Town, we have to stop this somewhere.

“The way JP Smith handled the installation of the water management devices. They can’t just expect them to be put in and residents have to pay the price.

“We are questioning the contractors of the water. Management devices and the fact that desalination took so long. All of a sudden the equipment is being stolen, and the City isn’t harnessing the water readily available.

“We are already in a water crisis. The City is putting us in a financial crisis with these proposed increases and people are really not happy. People will not survive this.

“I can perhaps take another knock and survive the increases but then I will be living on the breadline. What about those living below the breadline?”

Susan Lewis of District Six said it was unfair that Capetonians were doing everything to save water but get punished for it.

“I’m a pensioner. We are paying so much for rates and taxes, yet we didn’t even get a proper increase on our pension.

“I think the City has lost contact with the people and we have to bring back civil movement.”

Veneta Gent of Zeekoevlei also attended the march to “save the Capetonians from being forced out of their homes by not being able to afford the tarriffs, rates and the installation of water meters, most of which are faulty”.

“They want to extort every cent out of people. They even want to charge for the diameter of the pipes, that’s how nit-picky they are to make money.

“It’s also the rates and electricity now. It’s mismanaged and if approved, it will have disastrous consequences.

“They will soon say that if you leave the house, you will be taxed for oxygen!”

Aslam Salie of Lansdowne said he attended the march to support the call for the City to come to their senses.

“We are tired of the City taking us for granted, and we are very tired of the mismanagement.”

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They seem to ignore us as ratepayers – we pay bills and there are people who get free services. The ratepayers are easy targets.”

Stephen Stauch of Table View said service delivery was going down overall. “The tariffs we are expected to pay is actually criminal, and we have to look after our own areas, because we get no services.

“The WMDs is another issue – they are unwanted. The City is treating us like children. Where do they expect people to cough up thousands for these faulty things?”

He said as a resident, he sees these increases as forced removal. “People simply cannot afford the rates and taxes. The City is putting people in debt and they end up taking the homes of these people. The deviousness is concerning.” Sandra Dickson of the activist group Stop COCT has been managing the public participation process. She said she has received about 18 680 signatures on a petition opposing the tariffs. “We have also sent the City 6 000 emails to tell them what people think about the increases. Earlier this year, the drought charge was scrapped, but it is now back in the form of a pipe levy. You will be paying before you even open a tap or switch on a light, and that is daylight robbery.”

Mavis Petersen from Elsies River marched with her R6 000 water bill, and appealed for the City to explain why. “I am a pensioner, and my water bill is increasing monthly. I cannot afford this, they are taking all my money, everything.” Ms Limberg said that she was unable to personally receive the memorandums she was required to honour commitments made prior to receiving notice of the march. Upon being notified, she immediately ensured that there would be an appropriate representative to receive the memorandum.

“However, it must be noted that she will, and does, wherever possible, make every effort to receive such documents in person, as has been demonstrated on numerous occasions previously,” the City said, adding that subject to full details being available, the City usually responds directly to memorandums received.

Ms De Lille said the social package of services to assist the poor would increase from R2.7 billion to R3 billion. “There are many residents who struggle to make ends meet and, in assisting these residents, the City provides free basic services such as electricity, refuse removal, water, sanitation and rates rebates to residents who qualify.” Ms De Lille urged residents to have their say and submit comments not later than Friday May 4.