Ilitha Park residents protest high tariff bills

Residents say that high water bills are a result of faulty water meters. Photo by Jonga Gaqa

Ilitha Park and Phakamisa residents in Khayelitsha protested outside the municipal offices against high water bills on Thursday.

Residents of Ilitha Park protested this week outside the municipal offices against high water bills. Entrances and taxi routes in and out of the Khayelitsha suburb were blocked with debris and burning tyres on Thursday. Most of the residents that Elitsha spoke to raised concerns about water usage and meter reading not being aligned, water disconnections and imposed water management devices.

At the end of last month, the residents of Ilitha Park and Phakamisa marched to the municipal offices and handed over a memorandum of demands. Among others, they were demanding the clearance of “inappropriate old debts, correct calculations of water usage and an end to privatised meter tenders.” The residents gave the authorities 14 days to respond which deadline passed on the 15th of February.

According to one of the residents, Bulelwa Qoqa, her water meter was not giving accurate information and after numerous pleas, the City of Cape Town took her water meter for testing. “They took it in November 2017 and I have been waiting for feedback ever since,” she said.

Mthwakazi Ndzanga who works as a domestic worker told Elitsha that her current bill is about R84,000. “The tariff bill started to go up after they installed the blue water meter device. When it was R17,000 they disconnected our water and then we made arrangements to pay. The monthly installments did not make a big difference and it continued to go up,” she said. Ndzanga works two days a week and her husband works as a correctional officer.

44-year-old mother of two from Khwezi Park, Senke Lonake, owes R42,786.92. “I stay with my two children, one is 11 years old and the other one is 4 years old. The water meter readings do not reflect the reality. I have contacted every sphere of government seeking help but to no avail. Our ward councillor knows about my problem,” she said.

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Meanwhile, Nolele Njemla from Mandalay owes over R200,000 and has already received a letter from ITC business administrators stating that she owes the City and that they can sell her house to recover the debt.

According to the City of Cape Town, water leaks could be the reason for the high meter readings even though people have reduced their water consumption. “If a resident’s account is high from month to month, even if they reduce consumption, this could be due to a leak on the property that they need to find and fix. The vast majority of high accounts are due to leaks rather than any other factor,” said Mayoral Committee Member for Water and Waste, Councillor Xanthea Limberg.

As for Qoqa’s situation, Limberg said that the water meter was faulty and they are going to adjust the account appropriately and that a new water meter will be installed.

In July 2018, the City of Cape Town implemented a fixed basic charge for water. The charge according to the City is not based on property size but on the size of the water pipe. At the time, the City said that 95% of the residents will pay at most R115. This means a property owner with a 20mm water pipe in Mandalay or Westridge would pay the same as someone in Constantia or Milnerton.

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