DA launches petition to fight Joburg's high water, electricity rates

The Democratic Alliance (DA) has launched a petition in order for the City of Johannesburg government to review the water and electricity accounts of residents issued between June and August 2020.

This follows numerous complaints of residents being overcharged on their water and electricity rates, according to the party.

In a statement, DA MP Patrick Atkinson said the DA supported the City's recent budget, which was passed on 29 July 2020, provided that water and electricity tariff increases be reduced.

"These cuts were passed in Council. We were therefore shocked to receive several complaints from residents that their bills were inflated.

"Residents indicated that electricity was billed according to fictitious consumption readings and water, in some cases, at double the agreed upon tariff.  With many South Africans having lost their jobs and already struggling to make ends meet, this was the final straw," he said.

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Atkinson said that the DA had filed a request to compel the Member of the Mayoral Committee for Finance (MMC), Jolidee Matongo, to address this issue in Council.

However, the African National Congress (ANC) speaker, councillor Nonceba Molwele, denied their request, stating: "The said question does not warrant an urgent response and therefore may not be allowed as an urgent question".

"The speaker's decision shows a complete lack of care for the residents of Johannesburg. Overcharging residents for basic services is an urgent matter," Atkinson said.

"We have all heard the reports of families going to bed hungry, losing their possessions and being evicted from their homes.

"Under these circumstances an inflated account can be the difference between having food on the table or not,"  Atkinson said.

He added that the party calls on the City to review the accounts issued and adjust them according to the agreed upon tariffs.

"The DA calls on all Johannesburg residents to sign and distribute this petition as widely as possible. The petition will be formally handed over to the MMC for Finance and the Johannesburg Petitions Committee.

"We will not let this go without a fight. Our residents deserve better," he concluded.

Meanwhile, the City of Tshwane has also experienced backlash over excessively high municipal bills.

Former local ward councillor Yolanda Duvenhage said she had received more than 500 complaints from residents over unusual high billing.

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Duvenhage said this issue was even more "complex", with the metro serving residents with demand letters with cut off dates, while credit control offices struggled to operate.

Second on the residents' complaints list was the newly implemented fixed water and sanitation connection charge introduced by the metro in July.

Duvenhage said the main problem the residents had was over lack of awareness of the restructuring of the billing system.

Tshwane's spokesperson Lindela Mashigo said the new structure allowed for a network availability charge to enable the metro to do better maintenance.

"This is a fixed charge for all households, including sectional title units, which is not related to consumption. It also includes the first 9kl usage per 30 days period. This structure is a more just allocation of cost as the networks maintenance cost is related to pipe length, and not consumption," he said.

"The network availability charges are R120 per 30 days for water and R70 per 30 days for sanitation, excluding VAT."

Mashigo, however, said customers with properties valued below R150,000 were not charged.

On complaints about high billing Mashigo urged residents to visit the metro's Tshwane customer service to inquire about their bills.

"We will, however, as the metro looks into the issue with the relevant departments."

Mashigo said residents could check via balances and also lodge complaints using the WhatsApp line 087 153 1001.

Additional reporting from Rekord

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