Residents plan to shut down Bhisho over tariffs

Mthatha and BCM residents are gearing up for protests as overly hight water and electricity tariffs remain unresolved.
Mthatha and BCM residents are gearing up for protests as overly hight water and electricity tariffs remain unresolved.
Image: ISTOCK

Another showdown between Bhisho residents and Buffalo City Metro is looming as the impasse over rates appears not to have been resolved.

Chaos erupted in the town in 2019 when police fired rubber bullets and teargas at hundreds of protesters demanding that the cost of electricity be dramatically reduced.

Members of the Bhisho Rates and Services Payers Association (Braspa) clashed with police as main roads into the town city were barricaded with burning tyres and rubbish, causing major traffic delays.

Now the association is planning to shut down the town again unless its demands are met.  

Residents  marched to the premier’s office in March 2019 to hand over a memorandum complaining about tariffs and billing.

They demanded that their water-related debts be erased and electricity tariffs reduced by cutting items embedded in the tariff structure.

“A task team was formed to tackle these issues last year, but yielded no results,” Braspa chair Mxolisi Noyila said on Tuesday.

“In June 2019, Cogta MEC Fikile Xasa facilitated a meeting discussing the issues of water and electricity tariffs; commitments were made, but BCM did not honour them.”

He said that on Monday alone he had received about 100 complaints from Bhisho and Tyutyu village residents about high rates.

“We have discovered that there’s a punitive tariff for consumers who exceed water usage.

“This to us is unacceptable because we were not consulted.

“The mayor admitted that the metering system has flaws.

“Now how do they charge penalties based on wrong information?” Noyila said.

Noyila, residents, the local community police forum and other stakeholders held a meeting on Thursday to discuss ways to force BCM to address their issues.

One must keep in mind that during lockdown there were  no meter readings

“The meeting resolved that a clear communique stating our decision to boycott the next elections be directed to the premier and Calata House.”

“We will engage schools to discuss ways to avoid compromising learners’ access to education, especially Grade 12, as we intend shutting down everything in Bhisho until our demands are met,” he said.

A  community meeting will be held on September 25 to finalise plans on the shutdown.

BCM spokesperson Samkelo Ngwenya said the relationship between the municipality and residents had not broken down.

“The  municipality has a cordial relationship with the Bhisho residents.

“With executive mayor Xola Pakati leading the meetings, we set up task teams to resolve all the service delivery issues raised and these have been resolved and continue being attended to,” he said.

We even opened operations on weekends, and our managers have direct contacts with Braspa representatives, especially on issues related to account issues

“We even opened operations on weekends, and our managers have direct contacts with Braspa representatives, especially on issues related to account issues.

“One must keep in mind that during lockdown there were no meter readings.

“However, to solve the issue of water meter readings on a short-term basis we have [taken on] more than 100 EPWP meter readers.” 

Ngwenya said all the accounts that were said not to have been read were charged on an interim average consumption.

The municipality reversed all the interim charges once readings were captured.

Residents were encouraged to read and submit their readings at meterreading@buffalocity.gov.za, he said.

Ngwenya said the municipality was rolling out water and electricity smart meters.

 DispatchLIVE



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