Statement by GCTCA – Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance

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It is with absolute dismay that the GCTCA noted the announcement that the City of Cape Town levy property owners with a drought charge to fund income shortfall as a result of water saving.

The GCTCA has for many years officially objected to the deeply flawed property valuation methodology. To now use this same flawed valuation to calculate yet another tax is farcical. It is our opinion that it is grossly unfair and irrational to ask residents to save water, and then when as a consequence, the income from water usage is reduced that the very people who saved water must now be punished with a drought levy. The same happened with saving electricity. Obviously, revenue for the City will drop and uncaring councillors will then take the easy way out by just simply taxing the already over-taxed ratepayer more. The ratepayers were always made to understand that we paid for the cost of availing water to our households. But since the unintended consequence of saving water or electricity is a drop in income, the City sees the need to impose a penalty on docile ratepayers instead of looking to other savings. From 1st July 2017 non-indigent ratepayers lost the 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.

It is grossly unfair and unjust to look to the ratepayer to cover this shortfall in income. What about recovering the huge amounts wasted by the Executive Mayor and City manager in attempts to dismiss mangers and senior staff who happen to disagree with them. It would be interesting to know exactly how much the City spent so far during the tenure of the current political rulers on legal fees and consultants in an effort to get rid of managers. A case comes to mind where the court had ruled that a senior employee must be reinstated and his salary for the long time that he was unemployed be paid by the City. That cost and well as the cost of the legal battle should be claimed from those who initiated the unfair dismissal. Its time that the arrogance of power be quantified in terms of cost to the ratepayer and such cost be demanded from the political and administrative heads of our City government. No need to burden the ratepayer further. We suggest that the time has come that the ratepayers of Cape Town stand up and demand that wasteful expenditure be claimed from errant politicians and officials to cover the shortfalls. This is crisis time. Should we not reconsider the huge cost of employing so many councillors, with trappings of office and all. Even though we hear of the freezing of lower level posts in the city there has been an alarming increase in the number of executive level positions such as within the Mayor’s office and the appointments of “Mini Mayors”. If we had some insight into overspending on luxurious offices, while there is sufficient space in the huge City buildings throughout the Metro, we might begin to understand the need for this ridiculous hare-brained scheme of a drought levy.

We are concerned that the reported income of billions of rand from water restriction levies and other sources are apparently no where to be found to help out now. Has the time not arrived for the Mayor to come clean and tell the ratepayer what happened to previous levies collected. Should we not know how much money was raised for water assistance programmes and how that is being applied? Besides the required fiscal discipline and severe austerity measures there are other methods of funding such as private sector investment. The City’s R1bn ‘Green Bond’ as example was totally oversubscribed. It was reported that within two hours, 29 investors made offers totalling R4.3bn. However, Civil Society will need to fight tooth and nail to prevent any commoditisation of water. Humanity will find itself on a slippery slope when the most basic need for life is in the hands of those geared around financial profit.

From all accounts well aired in our local media, the City had at least five years to prepare to meet this crisis. Alternative water resources, such as desalination could have been considered long ago. It will not be a surprise if we read in the newspapers tomorrow that somewhere, someone, had been paid millions for reports to frustrate the idea of alternative water supplies.

The Greater Cape Town Civic Alliance calls upon ratepayers to rise up and resist this absurd and hugely stupid idea of a drought levy. We encourage household to continue its great efforts to save 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. We call upon the council of the City of Cape Town to go back to the drawing board and come up with a better plan.