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Durban ratepayers’ associations still adamant about boycotting rates

By Khethukuthula Xulu

Over the past few months, a series of letters have been written to the municipality objecting to the tariff increase that was initiated from July 1.

eThekwini City Hall. Photo: Shutterstock / Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH
eThekwini City Hall. Photo: Shutterstock / Bildagentur Zoonar GmbH

Following numerous meetings with the eThekwini Municipality, the Westville Ratepayers’ Association (WRA) and eThekwini Ratepayers Movement (ERPM) remain adamant about boycotting rates.

WRA and ERPM have served notice on eThekwini Municipality, through the Durban high court, to be interdicted and restrained from disconnecting municipal services as per the dispute over tariff increases, which was lodged in June.

Over the past few months, a series of letters have been written to the municipality objecting to the tariff increase that was initiated from July 1.

“WRA/ERPM is encouraged by the enthusiasm and support for our application regarding disconnections.”

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“But we must make it clear, we are still in the application stage and the matter is on the ordinary roll to be heard on November 1. Should the municipality go ahead with disconnections on any of our members in the dispute, the WRA/ERPM will make this application urgent,” said Asad Gaffar of the ERPM.

Gaffar said the ERPM campaign, led by the WRA, will continue the rates protest, which started on July 1.

“The threats of disconnections to services from the city have not been taken lightly, and a court interdict against any credit control measures was lodged today.

“We need to show this municipality how serious we are as ratepayers. We will not be bullied. We will ensure our hard-earned money is used correctly,” said Gaffar.

He added that for everyone who joined the campaign now, money due to the city will be diverted and held in a trust by WRA and ERPM. The eThekwini Municipality said it had received the notification of the application to the high court, but had not yet been served.

We have received a notification from our legal team that this matter is now the subject of a court interdict filed by the ratepayer’s association.

“We understand that papers were filed in court, but the municipality has not been served with the papers. Once we receive the papers, we will determine the course of action. Therefore, we are not in a position to discuss this matter any further since it is subject to court processes,” said eThekwini spokesperson Gugu Sisilana.

In August, the eThekwini mayor, Mxolisi Kaunda, met with the ratepayers in Westville after the news spread of residents boycotting paying their property rates.

After that meeting, Kaunda said he was deeply concerned about the public statements that have been attributed to WRA of mobilising residents to boycott the payment of rates.

“While we acknowledge that sometimes our residents may get frustrated about the service delivery lapses, we want to caution that the law is clear that non-payment for municipal services is unlawful. We can only fix these service delivery challenges if we all work together.

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“The Municipal Systems Act and other applicable legislations enjoins a municipality to collect all money that is due and payable to it through various legislated income streams to deliver on its responsibilities,” he said in a statement issued after the meeting.

Kaunda said as much as he understood the residents’ frustrations, withholding the payment of rates will only exacerbate the situation. “As a city, we must also caution about the risks of withholding municipal payments and paying monies into trust accounts/other structures.

We say this because the municipality will continue to implement credit control measures as allowed for in law. This includes levying of interest on overdue accounts and disconnection.

This will have a negative impact should a resident decide to sell a property, there will be challenges with issuing a rates clearance certificate.

Kaunda recently admitted that some of the issues raised by the ratepayers were valid, such as the complicated current billing, of which, he said, there was room for it to be simplified.