POLOKWANE – This is the message the DA has, after the ANC and the EFF during last week’s council meeting took the decision to rescind a resolution adopted in 2012 whereby a surcharge is levied for the excessive usage of water.
Frank Haas, DA Caucus Leader in the municipality, said Polokwane is a water scarce area that often experiences water shortages.
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“The surcharges were integral in ensuring that residents were discouraged from using excessive amounts of water.
“The ANC and EFF resolved that all surcharges for the last 12 months must be reversed and consumers be credited with these amounts and that there will be no surcharges levied as from date of the council resolution,” he said.
That date is effectively Thursday, 25 July. The 2012 council resolution was incorporated into every budget and tariff policy adopted since 2012 according to Haas.
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Haas furthermore argued that the lifting of the surcharge will put strain on the city’s already under pressure water supply.
“The DA voted against the resolution due to concerns that the decision may have severe financial implications on the municipality.
“The current water resources will now experience even more pressure which could contribute to an intolerable situation, where the city would be without water on a more regular basis and for longer periods.”
If consumers receive ‘credit’ for previously paid surcharges, it would mean that for a few months, such a consumer will not have to pay anything and would result in the loss of much needed revenue for the municipality, Haas said, adding that the move by the ANC and EFF is nothing more than an election ploy.
“Ultimately, it is the people who will bear the brunt of a decision that threatens the municipality’s water security. The decision will in effect bankrupt the municipality.”
He said the DA had sought legal assistance in this regard, to protect against the misuse of water resources and a detrimental financial situation.
Dikgape Makobe, the Municipal Manager in an interview with Review said the surcharge was initially instituted as a temporary measure to repair vandalised boreholes along the Sand River and was just to have been collected until the boreholes were repaired.
It however continued to be collected even after the intended purpose was reached. Makobe said residents cannot be paying a surcharge as well as a block tariff, which is budget -related, where water tariffs increase per block when more water is used.
“It is unconstitutional if we charge the surcharge too,” Makobe said. He said the surcharge was not part of the budget policy, based on an ‘old’ resolution and an “injustice” to consumers and he did not want residents to sue the municipality because of the surcharges.
For the year ending June 2018, the municipality has seen a decline in R83 million in water revenue.
DA councillor Jacques Joubert, who serves in the Finance and Local Economic Development portfolio in the municipality, after perusing the fourth quarter report for 2017/18 said water billing was reduced by 38,1%.
When asked about this decline, during last week’s council meeting, Mayor Thembi Nkadimeng could provide no answers other than referring the report to the Municipal Public Accounts Committee (MPAC).
Last year, the city saw 64 water stoppages due to non-delivery of water from Lepelle Northern Water and problems encountered at the Olifantspoort and Ebenezer plants.
The loss of water sales was compounded by the loss of water due to pipe bursts and water going to waste by contractors replacing old asbestos cement pipes with new pipes.
Polokwane Municipality has in the meantime also crossed the R1 billion mark with respect to the debtors’ book, standing at R1 009 128 632,67 at the end of June 2018.
Mankweng residents owe more than 35% of the outstanding debt for water and electricity, which most of the residents in the area are refusing to pay.
The issue has been raised time and again in council meetings with little to no success by debt collection agencies deployed to collect outstanding debts in the area.
“The DA will submit a written question to the Speaker of Council to explain the reasons behind the under-billing of water, as well as the proposed new action plan to address the Mankweng debt issue,” Joubert said.