Residents stand up to high bills

A Brackenfell resident is tackling the City of Cape Town (CoCT) over their punitive electricity, water tariffs and property rates which were proposed in the recent draft budget.

Sandra Dickson, founder and funder of website dearcapetown which was built by Rob Hutchinson, told me she wants to make it easier for residents to take part in the public participation process (PPP) and to make people more aware of the *Promotion of Administrative Justice Act (PAJA).

“Few people are aware of it and how it protects us,” said Ms Dickson, who got involved because she can no longer afford to pay her municipal bills.

“When I saw how in 2017 the CoCT changed the electricity tariff structure for 100 000 people, as well as the levy they planned to implement I got actively involved. I hope to influence CoCT’s financial decision and get them to look at affordability and to get as many people as possible involved in the PPP which is protected by PAJA. People are not aware of this act and how it protects us.

“The CoCT is ruled by a few people who have zero regard for its consumers. The left hand does not know what the right hand is doing. This is evident from the conflicting statements issued by Patricia de Lille, Ian Neilson, Xanthea Limberg and JP Smith. The last press statement I saw was from Grant Twigg where he questions the entire budget,” Ms Dickson said.

“The City is still in a panic and favours one massive desalination plant even though they say in their plans that it is not the case. What makes it unbelievable is that they already had over R5bn capital budget in 2017. Where is this money? These punitive increases are as a result of the power struggle and clearly they have lost their way,” she said.

The budget is “balanced perfectly on their side”.

Each year they report a surplus running into the billions.

“It is their hell-bent quest to build a monster desalination plant that is someone’s pet project which is throwing us under the bus. The City also spends inordinate amounts of money on the MyCiTi project,” she said.

The City should do what every business that claims to be short of money does.

“They could cut their
R12 billion wage bill by reducing their R6 billion contracted services immediately and then put their own employees to work more efficiently, instead of getting outside contractors to do their work for them. The City should also not fill any vacancies.”Ms Dickson said that last year when 100 000 people received a 74% electricity increase they couldn’t find any lawyers to take their case to the courts. They seemed disinterested so “we will have to crowdfund or do our own fund-raising”.

“This is the main reason why we are going the PPP route as the municipality is legally bound to receive and process our objections,” said Ms Dickson, who added that the Public Protector (PP) had already written to the City of Cape Town asking for information under the Promotion of Access to Information Act (PAIA), after she complained about the inaction and delays in getting information from the City.

“I finally got a reply but the City did not give me the information I requested. At present we are in the PPP which closes this Friday (May 4) so the PP cannot directly intervene at this stage.

“However, if the City does not amend its budget, the PP will assist us. Meanwhile, her office is looking into the incorrect bills consumers have been getting from the municipality.”

Mayoral committee member for finance, Johan van der Merwe, said the City’s budget department (located in the finance directorate) consults with line departments and the public to ensure that funding is being targeted correctly.

“In drawing up the budget we do not use consultants but our professional staff who do not only have accounting degrees but postgraduate qualifications such as MBAs and MCOMs in Economics, Financial/cost modelling. This is besides their wealth of experience,” he said. There is a Facebook Group STOP COCT, which has 10 500 members and dearcapetown that has a database of
200 000 email addresses. You can add your name to the growing number of people who are objecting to the punitive increases proposed in the budget. The deadline is Friday May 4 before 4.30pm.

Visit www.dearcapetown.co.za, press enter, add your details and when you press enter, the comment is converted into an email and sent to the CoCT immediately.

You will get two emails, one from the City and one from dearcapetown as confirmation that the email was sent to the City. You can email sandradic@vodamail.co.za or call her on 082 801 6226.

Section 33 of the Constitution guarantees that administrative action will be reasonable, lawful and procedurally fair.

*PAJA gives people the right to ask for reasons and it gives citizens the right to have administrative action reviewed by the courts.

It promotes the principles of Batho Pele, People First. It means before you make a decision to put yourself in other people’s shoes.