Buffalo City residents count the cost of metro inefficiency

As a regional newspaper, our newsroom is often inundated with phone calls and e-mails from residents who need help in resolving their problems with municipalities.

Billing remains the biggest grievance. Ratepayers complain of municipal rates bills inexplicably increasing by tens of thousands. And as is often the case, they are sent from pillar to post when inquiring from the local authority how their bills could balloon so drastically from one month to the next.  

They then turn to journalists, hoping that making their plight public can get them the answers they so desperately want. At the weekend, the Dispatch reported on yet another contentious issue frequently raised by residents: electricity tariffs. According to research by MyBroadband, the Buffalo City Metro charges prepaid consumers the highest price for electricity in the country.

Households in BCM pay R2.78 for one kilowatt-hour — higher than what consumers in Johannesburg and Cape Town are charged. This figure may increase when revised tariffs kick in in the new financial year, which starts in July. Asked why BCM charges so much more, the city said it was battling a perennial problem of electricity theft.

With informal settlements mushrooming, so too is the deadly web of cables illegally connecting shacks to the grid. BCM said it lost about R200m in electricity income last year due to theft. Not only has it been a financial burden on the city, but illegal connections have proved deadly too. People have been electrocuted after stepping on or coming into contact with live wires running on the ground or through trees and makeshift electricity poles.

While BCM may find itself between a rock and a hard place, surely ratepayers cannot be expected to pay the price for the municipality’s inability to adequately protect its electricity infrastructure? Ratepayers have had to grin and bear the ever-increasing tariffs, with the threat looming large that they would simply have their supply cut if they failed to pay rates, even when incorrectly billed. Every year the grip tightens around homeowners and yet efficient service delivery still eludes many in the Buffalo City Metro. If the metro wants to charge maximum rates for services, it should at least ensure it provides services to its residents that are up to par with those enjoyed in bigger metros. At present, it is falling woefully short.



Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.