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Residents fume over rate hikes

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City residents are complaining that they are being billed 7% increases in electricity and a 6.8% increase in rates in their July accounts, instead of the approved tariffs that were outlined in the budget.

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CITY residents are complaining that they are being billed 7% increases in electricity and a 6.8% increase in rates in their July accounts, instead of the approved tariffs that were outlined in the budget.

Sol Plaatje Municipality has meanwhile issued notices that the electricity of any household or business that is in arrears for more than 90 days will be disconnected in the next two weeks.

Tumelo Mosikare from the Sol Plaatje Community Forum stated that the budget was not funded and that the electricity increases were not in line with pricing policies.

“We have yet to receive confirmation whether the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) approved the increases. We have advised residents and businesses to check their accounts and have it rectified because it appears as if different amounts are being charged,” said Mosikare.

He added that they had met with the municipal manager, who had advised them to rather not approach the court to declare the new tariffs unprocedural.

“We have consulted with our lawyers in preparation of a court battle because rates, sanitation and refuse were supposed to be increased by 4% and electricity by 4.5%.”

Sol Plaatje Municipality spokesperson Thoko Riet denied that there were any tariff increases amounting to 7%.

She added that they had developed a collection action plan to assist customers in settling their debts owed to the municipality.

“Assistance will be offered to indigents.”

Riet explained that those qualifying for the social package would be entitled to free basic water up to six kilolitres per month per household, 50 units of electricity and fully subsidised refuse and sanitation services.

“This basically means that indigent households are only responsible for the payment of rates on their municipal accounts, received on a monthly basis.”

She indicated that indigents had to have a total household income not exceeding R4,500 per month, had to reside on the property on a full-time basis, could not own more than one property and could not rent out their property.

“Deceased estate beneficiaries who are indigent also qualify for indigent assistance. A letter of authority must be obtained from the office of the Master of the High Court and the nominated beneficiary, as per the letter of authority, may apply by bringing proof of income, address and an identity document.”

Riet said that provision would also be made for child-headed households.

“We are also aware of the billing complaints that have been raised by customers, such as high water billing due to leaks. These issues will receive attention. Once a query is received and confirmed an assessment of a customer’s account is done. If there are any irregularities, corrections are done accordingly.”

She encouraged customers to report leaking meters to the call centre as well as service delivery matters that fell within the municipality’s area of service.

“It is imperative that our customers partner with us by ensuring that they pay their municipal accounts or enter into payment arrangements.

“The state of the city’s infrastructure is deteriorating and there are excessive water and electricity losses. The municipality is inspecting all meters to ensure that consumers are being billed correctly and to curb illegal connections and meter by-passes.”

Riet stated that there was R2.9 billion in the debtor’s book while the outstanding Eskom account was increasing.

“The low collection rate continues to worsen due to economic conditions.”

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