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Shock for city businesses

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There is much confusion over what businesses, both large and small, are expected to pay.

PROTEST: Police were called out to a protest in Galeshewe yesterday morning. Picture: Soraya Crowie

LOCAL businesses are in the dark over a basic electricity levy that is being charged – where they are being slapped with a R242 monthly fixed cost.

The CEO of the Northern Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nocci), Sharon Steyn, said that there is much confusion over what businesses, both large and small, are expected to pay.

“Nothing has been given to us in writing to explain the revised electricity tariff structure,” said Steyn.

Tumelo Mosikare, on behalf of city residents who are against high electricity tariffs, said that it appeared to be a levy that had been introduced for small businesses, which was included in the Sol Plaatje Municipality budget.

“As far as we can see, there is no levy on residential power purchases,” said Mosikare.

He pointed out that this matter would have to be taken up by businesses if they are unhappy with the administrative fee, as it had not been included in the memorandum that was handed over to the mayor last week.

Mosikare went on to say that they were informed that the mayor was “not available” to give feedback on their demand to remove the municipal manager and the chief financial officer (CFO) at Sol Plaatje Municipality.

According to a Facebook post from the mayor’s office, communities were encouraged to buy their electricity directly from the municipality.

“The office of the executive mayor, Mangaliso Matika, realised there are private companies that are robbing our community of electricity rates or units. Someone bought electricity from a local supermarket where money was deducted. Most of the private companies didn’t update their machines as per the agreement of the municipality and the people of Sol Plaatje.

“If there is anyone who bought electricity and feels there is a problem please come to the municipality so that we can sort out the matter.

Please note the residential rates vary from the businesses,” the post read.

Meanwhile, a number of community members, who are angry about the city’s high electricity tariffs and have been calling for the removal of the Sol Plaatje municipal manager and the CFO, took to the streets during the early hours of yesterday morning.

A number of roads in Galeshewe were barricaded with rocks and burning tyres from Tuesday evening, while the rubbish that was supposed to have been collected yesterday was emptied onto the street.

City residents meanwhile complained that their refuse was heaping up as protest action happened on the same day that their rubbish was supposed to be collected by the municipality.

The protesters said that stun grenades and rubber bullets were fired at them by police “for no reason”.

“What have we done? It’s not as if we have vandalised any building or school. It is within our rights to protest because they are not taking our concerns seriously.”

The protesters also vented their anger over the mayor’s R1 million Audi that they believe is extravagant for a struggling municipality.

Police spokesperson, Captain Olebogeng Tawana, said that six suspects were arrested on charges of public violence during community protests in Galeshewe.

“We are continuing to monitor the situation. The suspects are expected to appear before the Galeshewe Magistrate’s Court soon.”

Despite threats that members of the public would physically remove the mayor from his office yesterday if he failed to remove the municipal manager and CFO, the manager in the Office of the Mayor, George Mosimane, stated that there were no disruptions at the municipality.

“All services are operating as normal. We have not received any alerts regarding any security risks that may endanger the mayor, municipal manager or the chief financial officer,” said Mosimane.

He condemned the trashing of rubbish on the streets.

“There appears to be a criminal element involved in these actions and other issues at play that the police must deal with. People should not behave in this manner in the name of service delivery. The mayor has an open door policy and if people have a genuine cause, we are more than happy to sit around the table and discuss it in a civilised manner.”

Mosimane pointed out that the mayor was attending to his duties that were planned according to his weekly diary.

“The mayor engaged with the leaders of the march last week, where it was agreed that processes should be followed. This is not a tuck shop. He cannot bend to the whims and fancies of every protester who is looking for his attention. We are still waiting for a shred of evidence to validate the removal of the municipal manager and the chief financial officer.”

He added that it was “unheard of and unreasonable” to be given 48 hours to respond to a memorandum.

“Nonetheless we listened to the grievances of the community. The R260 basic electricity levy is something of the past.”