They were still awaiting a formal response from the municipality to the memorandum that was handed over at the march.
KIMBERLEY residents who are opposed to the Sol Plaatje Municipality’s high electricity tariffs are still going ahead with the urgent interdict in the Northern Cape High Court today, despite a peace offering from executive mayor Mangaliso Matika to waive the R260 basic power levy that council was intending to implement along with the 5.95% tariff hike on July 1.
This follows one of the largest protest marches in recent history in the city, where thousands of community members marched to the municipal offices on Wednesday in objection to exorbitant electricity prices.
Speaking on behalf of the disgruntled residents, Tumelo Mosikare stated that they were still awaiting a formal response from the municipality to the memorandum that was handed over at the march.
“We are going ahead with the interdict. Residents are concerned that the electricity levy will be concealed in the new tariffs in the form of hidden costs. If the old tariffs will be applicable, the municipality has not stipulated it. While the municipality is insisting that their tariffs are Nersa approved, Nersa has been very quiet about this whole debacle,” said Mosikare.
March organiser, Pantsi Obusitse, indicated that the protesters would not be appeased by one item being ticked off their list of demands.
“They cannot selectively deal with our demands and we will not compromise on the main issues, including the chief financial officer. If she is not removed, the municipality will collapse,” said Obusitse.
“The contract with the public relations company that was paid R1.2 million to hand out pamphlets and sow confusion over the new tariff fees must be terminated with immediate effect.”
He also pointed out that the R260 levy had been included in the budget that had already been approved.
“What is being communicated now is a completely different story.”
Obusitse warned that should the electricity surcharge and any sort of price hike be introduced, the entire city would be shut down by protesters.
“I cannot take responsibility for the actions of angry people. What took place on Wednesday was a romantic movie compared to the tsunami that will be unleashed should our people be antagonised. Residents from Magareng, Dikgatlong and Phokwane intend participating in the next march because they are also affected.”
During a special council meeting held yesterday, Matika did not give any details in regards to what ratepayers would be paying for electricity as from July 1, other than to say that it would be in line with Nersa regulations.
“The structure that will be implemented from July 1 will be the one proposed by Nersa, with the exclusion of the basic charge. The sale of electricity by shop owners at additional cost will form part of the recovery strategy that will be presented at the next council meeting.”
Matika indicated that the municipality would have to submit a comprehensive plan to council on how this decision would impact on the provision of services, including the awarding of increases and the payment of salaries.
“There are no winners here.”
Matika pointed out that without the revenue generated from the surcharge, the municipality would have to find an alternative source of income.
“If Eskom cuts the power supply, the same communities will demand answers. By doing this we are taking two steps back. While we should applaud ourselves for taking these decisions, we will have to work hard on proposals and a recovery plan because there will be consequences.”
He requested time to investigate the appointment of the public relations company to “gather all necessary information”.
“Management will make a full representation on this matter at the next council meeting.”
Matika stated that council acted within the scope of the law and could not entertain calls from the community to remove the municipal manager and chief financial officer.
“We cannot act on the basis of unsubstantiated allegations and will request any member of the public to forward information relating to any transgressions for investigation with the relevant authorities.”
Matika added that a meeting was scheduled with the leaders of the march today, at the council chambers at 10am, to communicate on these developments and obtain further information regarding the allegations contained in the memorandum.
“We commit to taking swift action against any individual who is involved in any act of corruption, irrespective of their levels of employment in the municipality.”
Matika acknowledged that he could not “turn a blind eye” to the high unemployment rate and poor economic growth.
“We are a caring and listening ANC and are mindful of the needs of the people who put us in our positions. We are not leading with arrogance and we cannot have communities revolting against our leaders. That is why we need to strengthen communication to our communities.”
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