PLETTENBERG BAY NEWS - The Bitou Ratepayers' Association is taking the municipality to court by way of an interdict application, to stop it from implementing "unlawful electricity tariffs" for impoverished residents.
The papers were filed at the Western Cape High Court on Wednesday 25 March.
This comes after public unrest earlier this month over electricity woes, which saw a large group of residents march from Kwanokuthula to the municipal offices in town.
Among the concerns related to claims that the municipality has been charging some residents double the electricity tariffs approved by the national regulator Nersa.
The association's chair Peter Gaylard explained that the municipality is short-changing those who have fallen into arrears by 50% on their electricity expenditure and offsetting that against other arrear service charges. "Although the municipality has agreed to stop blocking the prepaid electricity purchases during the 21-day lockdown, it is only temporary and obvious that the councillors and officials have no intention of responding to these objections to their unlawful actions coming from the victims themselves, nor do they intend to pay any heed to the ratepayers' requests that they cease their unlawful activities," Gaylard explained.
He said the municipality currently has more than R235-million of debt, much of it household debt from local townships.
"R180-million of that debt is over 120 days old. With close to 50% unemployment, most of that debt will need to be written off since there is no chance of recovery. So it is irrational to think that shortchanging electricity purchases of R50 or R100 is going to solve the problem. It will barely make a dent."
Gaylard added the only objective that would be achieved is to "heap more misery on the heads of the impoverished by effectively doubling the cost of electricity to them".
"It is obvious to us, from documentation we have seen, that very often pennies are scraped together in order to buy as little as R10 or R20's worth of electricity at a time. It is a struggle to survive."
He said the country is now heading into winter and these residents "who live from hand to mouth" are not going to have any income for at least the next 21 days. "There will be no financial relief for the poor. Anything we can do to help these people we must do. Even a little thing like ensuring they pay a fair and lawful price for their electricity, especially during these hard times, will help to soften the blow."
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