Residents march to City Hall over water and lights fees
SARAHKINGON and QHAMANI LINGANI
DESPITE rainy weather, a number of East London residents turned out to protest against high electricity costs and a number of other issues on Saturday.
The protest march set off from the War Memorial to the city hall in Oxford Street.
After complaining about high electricity tariffs in Buffalo City Metro (BCM), a petition was drawn up against the municipality, followed by a memorandum.
The memorandum was handed to Nontsikelelo Peter, finance department portfolio head, on behalf of executive mayor Xola Phakathi, who was out of town with the acting city manager on council business.
The angry residents braved the cold wet weather to speak out.
“I am prepared to walk even if there’s a thunderstorm,” Braelyn resident Babu Harry said.
“Water and lights have gone up so high that they are completely unaffordable. As a pensioner, it is very expensive. I spend R2200 on water and lights.”
He said that in 2001, he spent 47c per unit of electricity and he now paid R1.92.
Some of the questions in the memo included:
●How does BCM warrant the current pre-paid electricity tariff rates of R1.91 Including Value Added Tax?
●Do the above pre-paid electricity tariff rates conform with the parameters set forth by National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) …especially in terms of the tiered pricing schedules?
●Why does the municipality fail to disclose the current tariff rates on their customer statements?
●Why does the municipality continuously fail to read electricity meters and favour the estimation methods?
Among other things, the protesters also complained about the fire levy that appears only on BCM statements.
Buffalo Flats resident Charné Brooks said: “We pay ridiculous amounts for electricity, rates and taxes. This protest is the beginning of us drawing attention to a number of problems we experience including a filthy town and people who are not doing their jobs properly.
“I hope the municipality will see the power of the people through this march and make some change.”
Cambridge resident Gavin Campbell said: “We are paying exorbitant prices for electricity and the fire levy in particular.
“United we have a voice and can make a difference.”
Protester Suneel Bellochum said that for R100 he gets 85 units of electricity in Port Alfred but in East London he only gets 52 units for the same price.
“The cost of living should be far cheaper here in East London, which has a far better economy. That is why I am here [to protest].”
BCM spokesman Sibusiso Cindi said: “At this moment, we cannot say there will definitely be a drop in the electricity and water tariffs in BCM. There is a process we have to go through to check whether their complaints are valid or not and then based on that, a conclusion will be made.
“However, BCM does not see anything queer about the current tariffs.”
The mayor is expected to give a response within 21 days of submission of the petition.