Pensioners march against increased water tariffs

Cape Town residents protested against the steep increase in water tariffs earlier this year. Archive Photo by Mzi Velapi

On Saturday a group of about 100 pensioners took to the streets of Cape Town against increased water tariffs and evictions.

A group of pensioners and senior citizens marched to the City of Cape Town offices demanding that the City stop bullying them with high water tariffs, bad customer service at local rent offices and stop the installation of water management devices amongst others. This follows increased water tariffs of 10.1 percent since the beginning of July and the introduction of a water delivery charge that is dependent on the size of the property.

“The City has packaged the water tariffs and the water restriction as the same thing. They are not the same. The City claims that it can lower the restriction levels only through an instruction from the national government,” said Sandra Dickson of Stop the City of Cape Town, a campaign aimed at challenging the City’s water management policy. According to Dickson, the campaign was successful in defeating the initially proposed drought charge. In her budget speech in March, mayor Patricia de Lille tabled a draft budget that included tariff increases of 26.9 percent for water and sanitation.

“We have analysed the budget of the City of Cape Town and our findings have revealed that the City through the increase in tariffs is maintaining a surplus of 24 percent when only 6 percent is allowed by the policy and that the profits are used for other issues not related to water provision as is stated by the policy,” said Dickson.

Chanting ‘All we want to say is the City don’t care about us’, the protestors came together under the umbrella of Justice 4 Cape Town, a coalition of community campaigns. In addition to grievances over water services, they were also demanding that Communicare, an NGO that provides social housing in Cape Town be investigated for “corruption and irregular restructuring”. The protestors want the City to be in direct control of its properties and not to outsource property management to Communicare.

Speaking to Elitsha, Lulekwa Njoli (67) said that she and her family are currently paying R4,900 for a property that they rent in Ruytenwacht. “We want the municipality to be in direct control of the houses and not Communicare. I pay from an old age grant and my children are helping but because they are seasonal workers it’s really hard to pay rent,” said Njoli.

Elderly people and pensioners are being evicted out of the social houses managed by Communicare because they cannot afford to pay rent. According to John Adams, a housing activist, policy states that “pensioners can only pay 30% of their pension towards rent.” He said he was once on the verge of being evicted but he “fought back”.

The elderly also want the pension grant to be increased to the same level as the minimum wage. “We challenge each MEC or Member of Mayoral Committee Council to live on R1,690 for one month,” reads the statement by Justice 4 Cape Town.

While accepting the memorandum, MEC for Transport and Urban Development, Brett Herron said that the City does not evict people who are unable to pay rent because the City has an indigence policy for those who can no longer afford rent and that they must “stop spreading misinformation because they only evict people who use the property to sell drugs.”


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