- – Article by Bev Mortimer Residents a expressed anger in no uncertain terms, with shouts from the floor at a public meeting held at Cape St Francis Resort mid-August.
Ratepayers came out in numbers to attend a public meeting at Cape St Francs Resort, called following growing antagonism by St Francis residents to a R299 sewage levy they don’t use and exorbitant rates hikes of up to 63 % more, especially on vacant land.
At the meeting, which started at 5 pm and lasted for about three hours, Ward 12 Clr Lorraine, Maree welcomed everyone and handed over the proceedings to the Municipal Manager (MM), Charl du Plessis. He said there were “lots and lots of questions” and then gave an introductory overview of Kouga Local Municipality (KLM)’s financial position, stating that the payment level dropped from 96% in 2000 to 68% during Covid, but it has since then recovered. KLM has embarked on a data cleansing exercise.
Amendments to the Property Rates Act came into effect on 1 July 2015 and municipalities were given 7 years to implement the changes. KLM did not do this but are now forced to do so by law, he said. The cost of some basic services are provided at a financial loss and the Municipality was forced to re-think how to balance the budget.
The MM stated two public participation meetings were held. This was acknowledged by some attendees, but it was strongly disputed that the introduction of a ‘Vacant Property Rate’ and ‘Sewage levy’ for Cape St Francis was tabled at those two meetings. The MM acknowledged that KLM erred in this regard and apologized. He said he had learnt a lesson.
The newly introduced Cape St Francis “sewage levy” of R299 pm quickly aroused fierce anger from the attendees. Several residents stated that they have never used the service as they have a “soak away” system or “septic tank”. Why should they pay for this service? In the end the MM and the Revenue Manager undertook to refund this charge of R299 pm if people apply and it is found that they have a legal “soak away” sewage system. It was demanded that KLM clarify the definitions of a soak away/septic/conservancy tanks.
A resident pointed out that KLM stated that R299 “guarantees” each household one suction service per household per month and demonstrated in detail that this is impossible for KLM to provide, given the number of households, time it takes to empty 1 tank, capacity of 1 tank and time to drive and empty the tank before the next trip. MM stated that service delivery capacity is not planned on this principle but rather on demand for service. Regardless of the MM’s attempts to explain and counter this, the vast majority of people said they will in future request or demand the “honey sucker “monthly, even though the tank maybe empty, as they pay for 1 suction per month.
Most of the discussions, interjections, questions at the meeting centred on this issue.
The rates on vacant land were hiked by 50% and a few residents expressed their shock and disbelief. They asked why they were not previously informed about this big increase, saying they receive no service on their vacant erf, plus it has no water or electricity, connection, availability, and yet they must pay so much – one person said he has to pay 63% more.
On a question how to turn the situation around, the MM stated it was too late for 2022/2023 financial year and can only considered in the next financial cycle. The rates have been promulgated in the Government Gazette and cannot be changed. The only way to change it, would be through a court of law. There has been talk by many residents about taking legal action, since the meeting . Some staunch DA supporters voiced their anger on a WhatsApp group by saying they will never vote DA again.
Towards the end of the meeting, after most people had left, one resident asked questions about the supply and loss of water, and it was said that St Francis and Cape St Francis have a mix of Churchill and borehole water. This mix is necessary to comply with water quality standards. Water purifying plants are being installed the boreholes. Unaccounted for water losses is at 35%.
Among complaints received by this newspaper following the meeting was from one from CSF lady who echoed the criticisms from most others.
She said the municipal tariff fee was mentioned by a member on the CSF group. She contacted the municipality clear the matter up and was told if a household needs the services of a suction tank, the first time would be free and from then R299 each time again services for the same household would be required. She was late told by the municipality the R299 will be added to every household every month as was stipulated by the head office in Jeffrey’s Bay.
She sent the following questions to the municipality to be raised at the meeting: Levy for rates on Septic Tanks: When was the policy for Septic tanks brought forward by the council?; How is the monthly tariff determined?; After the decision was made, when was the public notified?; Can the by laws as well as the tariff schedule be sent to me?.
“My suggestion is that we must first address Council and demand a follow-up meeting residents encouraged to join ratepayers. Householders are burdened with more and more charges. Although the council describes our town as a holiday town, does not mean that they can post charges without the knowledge, warning or discussion of approval of the owners.
‘Without me setting my foot in my house, turning on a tap or using electricity, it already costs me almost R2000 a month. Then an extremely eye sore is that the suction tank is noticed for days on the end of the squatter camp which now almost connects to St Francis Bay and Cape St Francis. Who pays for those services?
Potholes in our roads are filled with all kinds of stuff and then trampled on! The Council is impoverishing us people so that we will have no choice but to sell the property, which we considered our retirement property and move elsewhere.
“Our lifestyle has become so limited and what is happening here instills mistrust and fear in residents.”
Owing to insufficient time just before print we were unable to get a comment from the municipality. However Clr Maree posted in a CSF group that during the meeting it became clear there are concerns regarding septic tanks and open erven property rates. “We recognise the problem and have started to reflect and summarised the main issues. The mayoral committee is having a meeting with the municipal administration on Friday on the way forward. I will communicate in due course what the next steps are”.
- From page in August 2022 edition of St Francis Chronicle, now out in local shops.