Objection to water levy

Mark Schäfer, chairman of the Bergvliet/Meadowridge Ratepayers’ Association

The announcement that the City of Cape Town seeks to levy property owners with a drought charge to fund income shortfall as a result of water saving is unacceptable and the association wishes to register its objection to the proposed measures.

While the association appreciates the nature and extent of the water crisis and understands that the City needs to adopt measures to address the crisis, we believe that the proposed steps are misguided.

Our view is that national government should be stepping in to alleviate the disaster and the City should not be utilising ratepayers’ funding to implement remedial and emergency measures.

Provision of water and bulk water infrastructure is a national competence not a provincial or local government one.

The national government has funded desalination plants and other drought- relief measures in other parts of the country and should be doing the same in the Western Cape. We need to know what national government is contributing to the crisis.

The City should not be taking these steps without ensuring that the cost thereof will be covered or recovered from the national government.

Cape Town is not a city state, nor is the Western Cape an independent country.National revenue must be applied to assist the region. The City should be forcing the national government to contribute to the costs – if necessary by approaching the courts.

The province has been engaging national on this issue for some time now. In the interest of transparency, community support and a clearer understanding of the way forward, we should be informed of national’s contribution during this crisis and given an explanation as to what liaison has taken place and the response or lack thereof and why nothing has been done to compel an appropriate response.

National government is washing its hands of this crisis, and the City is allowing this to happen. Further, we believe that the drought charge may, at some point, dampen the enthusiasm to save water.

It is unfair and irrational to ask residents to save water, and then when as a consequence, the income from water usage is reduced to punish those who saved water with a drought levy.

To use property values to calculate yet another tax is simply taxing the already over-taxed ratepayer more.

The ratepayers were always made to understand that they paid for the cost of water reticulation to households – both supply and maintenance. But since the unintended consequence of saving water is a drop in income, the City sees the need to impose a penalty on docile ratepayers instead of looking to other savings and sources.

From July 1 last year, non-indigent ratepayers began paying for what was a free basic allocation of 6kl for water and 4.2kl for sanitation. This resulted in the City receiving hundreds of millions of rands more from the already overburdened ratepayers. How is this additional income accounted for?

What about cutting expenditure incurred by the bloated executive mayoral team and the “nice to have” expenditure such as goodwill overseas trips and various other projects that are not directly related to the provision of municipal services?

A further question is why the middle class should shoulder the levy? If additional funding is required pending receipt of the contribution from national government (whether voluntarily received or after resorting to litigation) why settle on a municipal residential property valuation of R400 000 per property? Is this fair? Does it bear any relation to consumption or water-saving? How many residential properties are valued on the current roll and how many of those properties are valued at R400 000 and less and will accordingly be exempted from the drought levy? Why not continue exemption of properties with a municipal valuation of less than R250 000, which are already exempted from the payment of certain municipal utilities?

Clearly the City needs to reconsider the proposed action and heed the response from the (albeit) flawed public participation process – once again scheduled over the festive season so as to elicit a diminished response from the public it is meant to serve.