We are frequently asked questions by our members and would like to share some of our answers with you.
Is there anything that we, as ratepayers, can do to assist your efforts? If all ratepayers refused to pay their rates until the Municipality took notice of your concerns, would it make them think again about what is going on?
Answer: Withholding rates is illegal. The Municipality can sue for the amounts outstanding and the ratepayer has no defence to the claim. The Municipality can simply cut off services, especially electricity supply, to the homeowner. Paying only the services account provides no escape from this expedient, since the Municipality has a by-law permitting it to appropriate such payments to the rates accounts as it chooses. The money paid for, say, electricity is simply used to defray the outstanding rates account.
In Plett, withholding payments is ethically problematic. A case in morality can be made for withholding payments if the Municipality is corrupt through and through, but this is not true here: there are some bad apples, but many good people too, and the Municipality is still providing a significant measure of service delivery. If the money were cut off, the people in the town, poor people not least, would suffer badly and the problems of good governance would simply get worse.
To be frank, the best way to counteract the problems is to educate the electorate so that the Councillors they elect do their jobs honestly and properly. The campaign upon which the Plett Ratepayers is embarked has this as its principal purpose.
In our upcoming AGM on 15 December we will summarize the efforts we have been making, the level of success we have achieved, and our plans for the future. I look forward to seeing you at our AGM.
Below is a follow-up e-mail that I have sent to the customer care e-mail address of the municipality. In essence it revolves around the consequences of erratic or irregular electricity meter readings and the consequences thereof on the different monthly consumption tariffs.
However, from a Ratepayer’s Association perspective I thought it appropriate to draw to your attention the fact that the Municipality is charging incorrect amounts for VAT on these municipal accounts in some instances. I would imagine that this is a hard-coded item in the accounting system resulting in the over-collection of VAT at the expense of the ratepayers. The amounts are not large but multiplied by a few thousand ratepayers becomes a significant amount month after month. One then needs to ask the question how the VAT clearing account with SARS in the Municipality’s accounting system is actually reconciled and what happens to the excess balance in that particular clearing account as the error in every case is in the Municipality’s favour?
Answer: Our advice on tariff problems is to register a complaint with the Customer Care department and get a reference number. That way you have officially lodged a dispute and they cannot cut off your electricity or water. Or send an email to the CFO or Sharifa Daniels in Accounts to lodge your dispute. However, the finance dept. is in a complete shambles and the CFO is so inundated with e-mails and complaints that a standard reply is sent back automatically from him saying he can’t reply to any e-mails and the matter must be reported to Customer Care!
We are pursuing the questions about VAT errors, meter reading errors, and the change-over to a new billing company which seems to be in total disarray and are waiting for a response.
I would like to see a traffic circle at the intersection of Muller Street by the hospital and Methodist Church on the next IDP.
Answer: We received over 24 good suggestions from members for items to be put on the Ward 2 IDP list, mostly road related. We have added our own items for water maintenance and infrastructure, electricity maintenance, airport navigation equipment, runway repair, and street lighting. The IDP items form the basis of the draft budget tabled in January so we will be monitoring the process closely to ensure Ward 2 gets its fair share of the budget.
What is the status of our water and electricity infrastructure at present?
Answer: Our EXCO member, Oliver Rissik, monitors power and water on a monthly basis. Some excerpts from his report follow:
1. Street lights. Nothing new to report here as there is no capital budget for this financial year. The replacement work with the remaining new LED light fittings will continue until the stock runs out. Next financial year will hopefully see the continuation of the replacement program. New brackets required for replacement of some of the old fittings is being arranged at present. The only additional street light work to be done this year will be normal maintenance.
2. Solar water heaters. Training of installers is apparently underway. It, however, remains to be seen whether this rather ill-conceived project by National Government will be carried out competently. Short notice training for what is not simple installation, will lead to major problems.
3. Load shedding has caused
4. Kwik Spar traffic circle mast lighting still not repaired. The cable fault is somewhere below the road surface and the Electrical Dept. cable fault detection device is out of order. Being a complicated piece of equipment it requires a major repair to be done in Johannesburg – not done yet!
1. Roodefontein Dam is 102.0% (overflowing).
2. September rainfall 85 mm and 37 mm so far for October. – year total is now 580 mm. Total rainfall for 2019 was 489 mm. (Yearly average over 23 years is 729 mm).
3. Keurbooms River flow figures only received up to 3 September, but during the heavy falls in the latter half of August the flow went up to over 6000 l/sec., dropping to between 1200 and 2000 l/sec for the last week of August. High flows, as experie
4. The new water pipeline from New Horisons reservoir to the new elevated Kwano reservoir tank, a multi-year project, is proceeding.
5. Covid pandemic has disrupted Water Dept. work to a degree, and mainly only emergencies are being attended to at present. Preparation work for the continuing of the infrastructure upgrading is being planned now.
6. Natures Valley. A new borehole is being arranged for the supply to alleviate problems there. The new supply reservoir, planned for a while back, has been put on hold due to budget constraints, but the new pipeline and associated works for this upgrade have already been completed.
1. Sewage spills continue to be a problem, caused mainly by human actions of dumping rubbish etc. into sewer manholes. Water Dept. battling to get on top of this.
2. Ebenezer. Bulk sewage reticulation for this project is being evaluated at present. The water reticulation for the project will be done under contract.
3. Ganse Valei Treatment Works (WWTW) is to be upgraded in the next 2 years. At present it is working well with minor maintenance from time to time.
4. As mentioned, no budget allocation available for the replacement of the very old fiber cement pipes in the town. Pipe bursts continue.
What is the status of our court cases?
Ngoqo Appeal: the appeal against the decision to dismiss Municipal Manager Ngoqo as a result of his unlawful appointment was held in the Labour Appeal Court on 16 September. The RPA intervened as an amicus and submissions by Martin Brassey SC were expressly welcomed as helpful. We are expecting a judgment any day and will be particularly interested in how costs are awarded. As amicus, we are unable to claim costs.
Mayoral Vehicles: Our interdict was postponed from 18 September to 4 November and will be heard in the Cape High Court.
Overpayment of Salaries: Our application for judgment by default will be heard 10 November. Bitou Municipality raised no defence in this matter.
A letter was sent to MEC Bredell on 24 June 2020 requesting a report of Bitou’s senior officials’ salaries in response to our charges exposing their overpayment. We followed up on 28 July with MEC Bredell, pointing out that R2.1 m is budgeted for the MM’s salary, compared to the maximum upper limit of R1.38 m. No reply has been received so we sent another letter on 7 October to request him to start fulfilling his duties as minister.
WE WOULD LIKE TO THANK ALL OUR MEMBERS FOR YOUR CONTINUED INTEREST AND LETTERS OF SUPPORT. WE HOPE YOU SEE YOU AT OUR AGM ON 15 DECEMBER.