Organisations denounce eThekwini tariff hikes

eThekwini Municipality mayor Mxolisi Kaunda. Picture: eThekwini Municipality/ Facebook.

eThekwini Municipality mayor Mxolisi Kaunda. Picture: eThekwini Municipality/ Facebook.

Published May 5, 2024


Durban — Ratepayer organisations have lashed out at the eThekwini Municipality for pushing through a budget that would force residents to further tighten their belts amid a sluggish economy.

eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda presented the City’s budget at a full council meeting at Durban’s ICC on Friday.

Kaunda tabled the City’s final consolidated budget for the 2024/25 financial year, tariff adjustments and key initiatives for the forthcoming medium-term revenue expenditure framework.

This year’s tabled budget sees an increase in tariffs for ratepayers even though service delivery remains poor.

This followed a process of public consultations initiated after the proposed budget of R67.3 billion was tabled by Kaunda in March.

Kaunda, addressing the council, called it a “people’s budget”, adding the ruling party had listened to the concerns of the ratepayers.

“We wish to reiterate that the ANC-led government listens to communities when they raise their concerns.

“The electricity tariff increase is reduced from the proposed 14% to 12.72%, the property rates tariff increase is reduced from the proposed 7.9% to 6.5%; the water tariff increase is reduced from the proposed 14.9% to 12.9%. “In real terms, we are reducing the cost of water by 2%.

“This increase will be directed to the maintenance, upgrade, security and building of new water-related infrastructure,” he said.

“The sanitation tariff increase is reduced from the proposed 12.9% to 10.9%; and the refuse tariff increase is reduced from the proposed 8% to 7% for domestic and reduced from 9% to 8% for business.”

Ish Prahladh, president of eThekwini Ratepayers Residents Association, said the increase was disappointing.

“On Tuesday we received uplifting news from the mayor before his State of the City address that on Friday he will announce a decrease in the proposed tariff increase,” Prahladh said.

“However, the ratepayers and residents of eThekwini are not just disappointed, but we feel deeply disrespected by the paltry 2% decrease on the initially proposed 2024/2025 tariff increases.

“This is a mere drop in the ocean compared to the substantial financial burden these hikes impose on households already struggling to make ends meet.

“With the costs of living continuously rising, even the smallest increase in utility bills will have a significant negative impact on families’ budgets. What’s particularly frustrating is the apparent lack of consideration for the plight of residents who simply cannot afford these unnecessary increases.

“In response to this decision, the eThekwini Ratepayers and Residents Association will re-engage with the municipality to voice our discontent. We refuse to stand idly by while these increases disproportionately burden our community. It is imperative that our voices are heard and we will initiate meaningful dialogue to find solutions that prioritise affordability and fairness for all ratepayers.

“We demand transparency, accountability, and genuine consideration for the well-being of our residents,” said Prahladh.

Asad Gaffar, the chairperson of the Westville Ratepayers Association, questioned if any thought was given to the ratepayers.

“How can this be regarded as a decrease? The so-called decrease is not sustainable. Nobody can afford a double-digit increase, can you? I’m sorry, We don’t regard this as a decrease,” said Gaffar.

Don Perumall, spokesperson of the Tongaat Civic Association, said they were losing hope.

“We cannot afford an increase in the price of utilities. Our community is already overburdened with exorbitant bills and high unemployment. It has come to a choice of either paying utilities or paying for food. The mayor lowering the increase by a small percentage is a slap in the face; in fact, it is an insult. It also shows how out of touch eThekwini is with the people on the ground.

“State-owned entities like Eskom and Umgeni Water are also to blame for pushing high increases on to eThekwini, hence on to us as residents feeling the final brunt of this.

“Tongaat Water Works belongs to eThekwini and as such Tongaat must be exempt from any increase for water. Our service delivery agreements have been at an all-time low coupled with increased corruption and low or no development of low-cost houses or other services,” said Perumall.

He said the Tongaat Civic Association was the voice of the people and they rejected any form of increase in utilities until services improved.

The budget was adopted after 112 councillors voted in support while 56 voted against it.

Sunday Tribune