The eThekwini Municipality has welcomed a court’s decision to reject the Westville Ratepayers Association’s (WRA) application to prevent eThekwini from disconnecting services to customers involved in a rates boycott.
The judgment was handed down in the Durban high court on Friday with costs.
According to the municipality, the judgment effectively means that residents supporting the rates boycott must pay for services, including penalties, interest and a reconnection fee.
Furthermore, where residents who have been disconnected are found to have illegal connections, the meter will be removed.
The rates boycott started after a series of letters were written to the municipality by ratepayers objecting to the tariff increase that was initiated from July 1.
eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda said the judgment was an important victory not just for eThekwini but for other municipalities as well.
This judgment validates the stance of the municipality in this matter. It also confirms the view that ratepayer associations cannot take the law into their own hands and withhold payments that are lawfully due to the city.
“The city has consistently advised and cautioned residents to refrain from such action as it is unlawful. We hope that this court decision will act as a deterrent to such unlawful behaviour.”
Kaunda added that the municipality had always maintained that engagement with ratepayers’ associations was the most constructive way forward.
To this end, the municipality has engaged and will continue to engage with ratepayers’ associations to find solutions to service delivery challenges.
The municipality urged residents to continue paying their municipal bills.
The city said where there were genuine financial difficulties, residents could make use of the current debt relief programme.
“Customers can also visit any Sizakala Centre to enter into affordable payment arrangements.”
The municipality also thanked all its customers who continue paying their municipal bills.
This ensures the delivery of services and the financial sustainability of the city. eThekwini commits to doing its part by implementing the programme as per the approved 2023/2024 budget, providing adequate services, prudently managing the municipal purse, and taking action to stem wrongdoing.
The WRA said it has noted the ruling handed down by the high court.
“We are disappointed that we have not achieved any relief against the punitive actions of the city. While we wait for a full analysis of the ruling by our legal team, we want to emphasise that the Westville Ratepayers’ Association (WRA) launched its challenge against the city on behalf of all ratepayers and residents and this setback will have significant repercussions for our entire community if it is not challenged.”
“We remain steadfast in our conviction that our campaign is principled and correct and that it will be vindicated by the higher courts of our land in due course.
“We extend our gratitude to all ratepayers who joined the campaign,” it said in a statement.