Investigate water wasters before changing levies

Ratepayers are preparing to fight a proposed drought levy, with one civic group saying the City of Cape Town should investigate the people who benefited from excessive water usage first before they start with an “everybody must pay” system.

The City wants to start charging the levy in February. The last full-council meeting of the year last week voted to send it out for public comment.

Mayor Patricia de Lille told the meeting the levy was needed to keep water in the taps and pay for “water augmentation” projects.

The levy will need Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba’s approval.

If approved in the January adjustment budget, Ms De Lille said the levy could raise about R420 million in the 2017/2018 financial year and about R1 billion a year for the next three years after that.

Property values will determine how much each resident pays, but the levy won’t apply to homes under R400 000 and businesses under R50 000. A R1 million home will have a R60 levy.

“It must be emphasised that the drought charge is not intended to be punitive as it relates to residents’ water savings,” Ms De Lille said.

But ratepayers don’t see it that way.

Monica Petersen, chairwoman of the Ratepayers’ Association for Lakeview Residents (RALR) said: “The City and DA really don’t care about the people it is ultimately the small man on the street funding these services and what is the role of the City planners, are they not supposed to plan for the next 10 years? The City’s employees waste the most.”

Ms Petersen said the city is doing “nothing to alleviate poverty in the Cape. “Big businesses and corporates will get a way to get past these levies.”

She said: “Tax the big corporates more. Utimately it’s your man on the street that is funding this City’s services with money that we don’t have, This is outrageous. I wish they can come up with a plan to tackle crime and gangsterism seeing that they are so creative with other people’s money.”

Mark Solomons, chairman of the Retreat Steenberg Civic Association (RSCA) said: “We are also not happy with City planning, because this is not a problem that was realised yesterday. City had years to plan in advance. They must first go back for past five years and determine which property owners used bulk water to keep gardens green. Those properties can today be sold for lots of money. Let’s start collecting from the people that benefited from excessive water usage first before we start with a, ‘everybody must pay’ system.”

Philip Bam, secretary of the Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance, said the City had had at least five years to prepare for the crisis.

The alliance, he said, called on ratepayers to “rise up and resist this absurd and hugely stupid idea”.

Mr Bam said the alliance encouraged households to continue saving water, but”we will not stand idly by while being bullied just because some arrogant power crazy politico thinks (mistakenly) that the Cape Town ratepayer is a docile, subservient and pliant entity”.

The City, he said, should “go back to the drawing board and come up with a better plan”.

Janine Myburgh, president of the Cape Chamber of Commerce of Industry, said the water crisis was “of our own making” and the product of “short-term think-

She said Cape Town had recycled only 6% of its water, mostly for golf courses and parks. Increasing that percentage to supply industry should have been a “no-brainer”, but the City had been reluctant to do that when industry had been prepared to pay more for “sweet dam water” .

“Think of the Athlone treatment plant. It is ideally situated to supply recycled water to the surrounding industrial areas and the airport where all the hired cars are washed and many thousands of loos are flushed by departing and arriving passengers. Ten million of them over the course of a year.”

Ms Myburgh said the City should follow the example of the Department of Energy and issue a tender for the supply of a fixed quantity of water every year for the next 20 years.

“It’s not rocket science. Consumers will pay slightly more over the next 20 years as they use the water, but they will have a guaranteed supply. There will be no need for special drought charges and the kind of emergency measures we are now seeing.”