Support given to poor households is being taken away by the municipality’s insistence on the recovery of costs for services.
The revised indigent policy grant by the Drakenstein Municipality has received negative feedback from residents with some holding protests outside the municipal offices demanding that it be scrapped.
The Drakenstein Municipal Council last month approved an amendment to its indigent support policy that would charge rates to indigent households according to properties evaluations that increased from R500,000 up to R950,000. The municipality stated that the policy revision is meant to ease the burden on those indigent households owning property or living in municipal rental units. These changes were made when the municipality discovered that there were residents receiving indigent support while not being in fact indigent. The new indigent policy has been implemented since 1 July 2019.
But residents have already voiced their dissatisfaction and have been demanding that the new indigent policy be scrapped and that the municipality stop penalising residents by adding tariffs to electricity purchases. The residents say that their electricity purchases are, in this way, used to defray arrears for water services.
The first memorandum of demands was given to the municipality on the 25th of September. The demands were a specific rejection of the indigent policy changes:
- Implementation of indigent policy as prescribed by national government and the complete scrapping of the Drakenstein Municipality’s current indigent policy.
- In relation to electricity, deductions from electricity purchases must stop and electricity disconnection must end. A flat rate for electricity should be charged and electricity supply must be restored to all areas experiencing disconnection and unfair electricity deductions.
- In relation to rental units: the immediate termination on leasing of sub-standard quality apartments, the writing-off of all arrears and the transfer of title deeds to current tenants and the repayment of fees paid to Drakenstein Municipality since their imposition.
- Evaluation and investigation of current property rates with community involvement.
The Drakenstein Municipality has implemented a new indigent policy grant for senior citizens and unemployed residents. This new grant according to the municipality is part of the national framework for indigent support that was approved in 2006 and is intended to improve the lives of indigents by improving access to water, sanitation, electricity and refuse removal services.
The maximum indigent benefit is R1,370.23 per month. But the implementation of the indigent policy has seen pensioners, who rely only on an old age pension grant that is currently at R1,780, fuming.
Nokatana Matshikiza receives a pension and her family relies solely on her for income. Her older children are currently unemployed and are searching for jobs to assist their mother. At this moment, she owes the municipality R6,435.30 and is expected to make monthly payments of R1,000 but is only able to afford R300. She has not received the free 100 units of electricity that was promised by the municipality. “I am really struggling and the municipality is not making life easy for me as a pensioner you doesn’t know what household expenses to start paying off.” The sad reality is that when she buys R20 electricity she gets just 4.6 units.
The residents claim in the memorandum of demands that power supply to their homes is being blocked because the municipality is insisting that they pay rent. Some of the residents say they pay up to R50 in electricity service charges per day.
On the 15th of October 2019, the Concerned Drakenstein Residents took to the streets to protest the new indigent policy. Community activist, Mitchell Stanfliet, says that “the municipality did not engage with community members to fully understand that many households are currently living below the bread line during these economic trying times.”
The protesters were expecting to engage with Executive Mayor Conrad Poole and hand in their memorandum of demands, but were told by the Acting Mayor, Rean Smuts, that the Mayor had fallen ill and was rushed to hospital.