Ratepayers seek legal advice on municipal tariff hikes

Durban City Hall is the headquarters of the eThekwini Municipality. | KHAYA NGWENYA/ Independent Newspapers

Durban City Hall is the headquarters of the eThekwini Municipality. | KHAYA NGWENYA/ Independent Newspapers

Published May 7, 2024


Durban — The eThekwini Ratepayers Protest Movement says it is seeking legal advice on what to do after the City passed its budget with tariff increases.

On Friday, the ANC with the support of the EFF and smaller parties managed to pass the R67 billion budget despite vehement objection by the main opposition parties such as the DA and the IFP and the ratepayers, who had demanded a zero tariff increase.

The Ratepayers Movement had written to all opposition parties requesting them to reject the City’s budget if it did not come with a zero tariff increase.

In his reaction, eThekwini Ratepayers Protest Movement chairperson Asad Gaffar told the Daily News on Monday that his organisation was seeking legal advice and was to meet its lawyers soon.

“Of course, we were disappointed that the budget was passed with an increased tariff, as we were pushing for a zero increase.

“All we saw on Friday appeared to be staged, so we will hear from our legal team what to do next,” said Gaffar.

The City had proposed a 14% electricity tariff but it was reduced to 12.72%, which is equivalent to the Eskom tariff increase. The property rates tariff dropped from the proposed 7.9% to 6.5%. The water tariff increase was dropped from the proposed 14.9% to 12.9% in real terms. The sanitation tariff increase was reduced from the proposed 12.9% to 10.9%. The refuse tariff increase has been reduced from the proposed 8% to 7% for domestic users and reduced from 9% to 8% for businesses.

Gaffar had also written a letter to speaker Thabani Nyawose requesting a presentation to the council before the budget. The speaker rejected the request.

Gaffar said the speaker cited “chaos” as a reason if he was allowed to address the council, saying all other associations may want to do the same and he would have no reason to reject their requests after granting the same to him.

However, Gaffar had not given up the fight.

eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Gugu Sisilana said: “As a matter of principle, eThekwini Municipality does not comment on threats pertaining to legal action. If there is a case before court lodged against the Municipality, let us all respect judicial processes by allowing the legal process to follow in the court of law and not through the court of public opinion via the media.”

Responding to Gaffar’s request to address the council last week, Sisilana said Nyawose had formally responded to Gaffar’s request, and the speaker’s response remains unchanged.

The municipality hosted public consultation sessions with all stakeholders, giving them an opportunity to engage and make submissions on the draft budget.

“Legislation and the Constitution make provision that the approval of a municipal budget is a non-delegable function of the municipal council, meaning approval thereof is its sole statutory function.

“The 2024/25 budget shall be tabled (on Friday) before the Municipal Council for it to exercise its legislative function since all statutory public participation processes pertaining to the budget have been complied with,” Sisilana had said.

Meanwhile, the African Transformation Movement (ATM), which supported the budget, has defended its decision, saying the party was happy with concessions made by the City after consultative imbizos with the public. The party councillor, Lwazi Mbhele, said it was not making sense for his party to vote against the budget.

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