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Sol mayor denies rates and taxes hike

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Sol Plaatje executive mayor Patrick Mabilo has rubbished claims that there is a proposal to increase electricity, water and refuse collection tariffs by 5.5 percent this year.

Sol Plaatje executive mayor Patrick Mabilo. File picture

SOL PLAATJE executive mayor Patrick Mabilo has allayed fears that the price of electricity, water and refuse collection will be increased.

It has been reported that there was a proposal on the cards to increase rates and taxes by 5.5 percent, while city residents are up in arms over Sol Plaatje Municipality’s “appalling” service delivery.

Residents have on a daily basis complained about leaking water pipes, overflowing sewage, the filthy and neglected state of the city, uncollected refuse, water and electricity cuts and potholes.

While businesses have had to invest in water tanks and generators to try and stay afloat, due to regular water cuts and load shedding, they are struggling to survive.

Many local businesses have indicated that they will have to close their doors if rates and taxes were increased.

The Northern Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Nocci) said this week that it intended to launch legal action against Sol Plaatje Municipality for “poor and/or non-existent service delivery” that was adversely affecting local businesses, “while escalating rates and taxes, coupled with continuous water cuts and load shedding, is having a direct financial impact on local business”.

It pointed out that local businesses were already operating under extremely tough economic conditions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Nocci first vice-president Tasneem Mahomed said on Wednesday that the organisation had received positive interest from local businesses that wished to seek legal recourse against Sol Plaatje Municipality.

“The decision to litigate is considered to be an action of last resort. It was also influenced by the impending hike in rates and taxes along with increased load shedding, water cuts and general service delivery complaints including sewage, burst pipes, potholes, refuse collections and the filthy state of the city,” said Mahomed.

“Members have requested that some form of action be taken against the municipality and, as such, legal action will be the route to follow. We are not aware whether this action has been brought in the Northern Cape region before. However, we are aware of cases where this action was taken in other provinces and proved successful in certain instances.”

Mahomed said that, at this stage, discussions were taking place with Nocci members to raise an amount of R2 million to cover the legal costs.

However, during a press briefing on Thursday, Mabilo rubbished claims that there was a proposal to increase rates and taxes.

“During the weekend of January 16-18, media reports circulated among residents (about a proposed rates and taxes hike). It is against this backdrop that the executive mayor and his mayoral convened an urgent meeting on January 19 to investigate where this rumour emanates from,” said Mabilo. “I have consulted with the SAPS to look into this information.

“Sol Plaatje Municipality is currently not able to determine the source of false reports making the rounds on the electricity tariff but we must indicate that this is incorrect and misleading.”

Mabilo reiterated that no tariff hikes would be instituted at this stage.

“Electricity rates, property rates and water and sanitation rates will remain the same until the next budget cycle.

“There is nothing of that nature on the table and any suggestion is malicious, irresponsible and intended to cause undue panic.

“Once the matter arises, we will engage in extensive public consultation as per the guidelines and policies. The mayoral committee and municipality is committed towards strengthening public participation and in restoring confidence in the eyes of the community.”

Mabilo believed that “opportunists” were trying to agitate the community by spreading false information while the municipality was “operating under a constrained environment”.

“The municipality will not be distracted from its current programme of service delivery.

“Ongoing consultations will take place with all stakeholders in ensuring that the municipality provides clarity on all service delivery issues to the community of Kimberley and all relevant stakeholders.”

He indicated that the municipality underwent a review cycle once every financial year and an adjustment budget cycle during February.

Mabilo added that the municipality was only permitted to review its budget and Integrated Development Plan in June and July, when a new budget was adopted by council.

“This process is preceded by intensive public participation, which starts during the months of April and May, when all residents, community and stakeholder groupings are extensively consulted on the budget process as well as the proposed increase in tariff structures.

“This process is led by the executive mayor and the Office of the Speaker to ensure compliance and transparency.”