Cape Town’s shocking treatment of residents - Brett Heron

GOOD SG says threatening to take away residents’ possessions because they can’t afford to pay for water is inhumane

"If you cant afford to pay for water we'll take your furniture then your home" says DA City Government

8 October 2021

I have written to Director of Revenue at the City of Cape Town, Trevor Blake, to request him to stop the Warrant of Execution issued against a disabled Tafelsig man who has fallen behind with his municipal accounts.

If the City proceeds with the warrant, the man – who is blind, and whose sole income is a disability grant – risks losing his furniture, which is of insufficient value to cover the debt, and then his home.

The Tafelsig man is not the only struggling resident against whom the City is taking legal action. I have asked Mr Blake to look into several other accounts...

Access to water and basic services should never come at the cost of families losing their homes or meagre possessions.

Instead of punishing the poor for their poverty the City of Cape Town should show some empathy with the millions of people presently struggling to pay for food, let alone expensive water and electricity.

Instead of taxing citizens by adding an extra bit of profit to their water and electricity costs, the City has the means to reduce the burden on the shrinking working class and growing ranks of the unemployed.

Practical steps to reduce water and electricity costs

In December 2017 the city of Cape Town raised water tariffs in what was supposed to be a temporary drought relief measure.

But the DA caucus recognized the revenue opportunity of permanently increasing costs to consumers, rejecting then-Mayor Patricia de Lille's proposition for a temporary drought levy and replacing it with something it calls a pipe connection fee.

That fee, together with a significant hike in water tariffs, rapidly increased the cost of water.

In January 2018, De Lille proposed that the extra tariffs should not apply to households using less than 6Kl per month, households with large families or households that were saving water. That is when the DA Caucus launched a Motion of No Confidence against her, calling her "financially reckless" – and continuing to over-charge for water.

In March 2019, international rating agency Moody's released a statement showing that the DA's extra water tariffs had resulted in increased revenue of R4.4 billion for the city.

The City has steadfastly maintained the fixed pipe levy and has insisted it will not provide any relief from this tariff.

When it comes to, electricity the City of Cape Town imposes a surcharge, or mark-up, on the NERSA approved tariff. Many residents cannot afford electricity, and must make real choices between feeding their families and keeping on the lights. The City's electricity mark-ups literally take bread from their mouths.

Water and electricity services are basic services. No family should be denied access by the imposition of unaffordable tariffs.

Adding to the burden on the poor is the City's practice of debt collecting through its pre-paid electricity meter system. This is unlawful because it allows the City to take the law into its own hands, deciding when residents are indebted, and unilaterally collects the debt from money paid to buy prepaid electricity units.

The resident, or debtor, doesn't get the opportunity to dispute that there is a debt.  Also, in terms of the tariff system for electricity, a consumer should get the units they pay for.

The City has 19 Billion Rands in the bank today, and guaranteed future income from prepaid electricity meters. Dams are overflowing for the second year in a row.

Residents, on the other hand, are struggling through unprecedented economic hardships as a consequence of a combination of factors including corruption, mismanagement, maladministration and Covid.

It's time for the City to give struggling households a much-needed break. It's the right thing to do, the City can afford it, and a GOOD-led City would attend to it as a matter of priority.

Issued by Fiona Furey, Communications Director: City of Cape Town Mayoral Candidate, 10 October 2021