ANC heads to court over 'ludicrous' water bills in Cape Town

The ANC in the Western Cape filed court papers to challenge water tariffs in Cape Town on Wednesday after receiving complaints by some residents that they faced "ludicrous" bills.

The party's Cobus Grobler said they had filed papers in the Western Cape High Court in a bid for "class action" over the "ridiculously high and completely unaffordable water tariffs which have increased by up to 600% over one year".

He said the party was asking the court to stop the City from "violating" the constitutional right to affordable water.

The move comes just days after the City of Cape Town announced the relaxing of water restrictions and a lowering of tariffs for residential, commercial and industrial users.

Deputy Mayor Ian Neilson announced that the restrictions would be relaxed from Level 6B to Level 5 from October 1.

READ: City of Cape Town relaxes water restrictions, tariffs to Level 5

Grobler said they filed papers on behalf of four residents, namely Patrick Festus, Arthur Theys, Januel Hector and Lameez Souma.

Festus, 51, from Eerste River, noticed a dramatic increase in his water and sewerage bills and had an outstanding balance of R605 905.58, said Grobler.

Festus' water bill apparently rose from R248 in December 2017 to R495,184 in July. His sewerage apparently increased from R184 to R6021 in the same period.

"ANC offices across the city have been flooded with similar complaints from residents who have either had their water and electricity cut already because they can’t afford to pay, or they have been subjected to threats of their water and electricity being cut, whilst others have been served with notices of legal action by lawyers acting for the City, and those threats also include blacklisting with credit agencies," said Grobler.

"The applicants say in the court papers that they understand that there is a drought and that they must pay for and also save water as far as possible, but they object to being punished for saving water and they also demand to be treated like human beings by the City of Cape Town."

Mayoral Committee Member for water and waste services Xanthea Limberg said that the City was aware of the ANC’s intention to file court papers but was not aware that they had already done so.

"There has been an increase in tariffs in every city worldwide to assist with the impact of drought," she said.

"The increase was approved by national treasury in May and then formally adopted on July 1. It was necessary because it was becoming difficult to maintain water services and there was a need to protect dam water levels."

Limberg explained that before tariffs had increased, Capetonians had not paid the full cost of water and were in fact subsidised by the City.

"All cities adjust tariffs to maintain the water services and remember we needed revenue for water augmentation projects. We need a balance between cost and expenses," she said.

"As we move out of the drought, we will reduce tariffs substantially, but we will ensure that it aligns with the true cost of water delivery."

Here is what you can expect to pay once the relaxed restrictions come into effect:

Residential tariffs (excluding VAT)

0 – 6 kL: Down from R28.90/kL to R21,19 kL
6 – 10,5 kL: Down from R46/kL to R34,43/kL
10 – 35 kL: Down from R120,27 to R52,39/kL
Above 34k L: Down from R1 000/kL to R300/kL

Commercial and industrial tariffs

Down from R45,75/kL to R37,50/kL