The city council of the City of Cape Town has backed a proposal – brought to the council by Mayor Patricia de Lille – for a drought surcharge. However, it must go to the public for comment until January 12.
Reports on the social media indicate that the city council has voted on the proposal to implement a temporary drought surcharge which will heavily tax commercial property owners and also residents in expensive homes in the city. It is understood that it will be phased in next year and would be phased out against – if the drought disappears – in 2021.
The African Christian Democratic Party’s Grant Haskin, a former deputy mayor, reported to The Cape Messenger that the city had not sufficiently exhausted all other possible funding avenues. “Ratepayers should be the last resort to fund this shortfall.”
Mayor de Lille told the Cape Town Press Club on November the 30th that the surcharge would not apply to those living in homes costing R400 000 or less. But according to a table provided by Haskin, those in more expensive homes will pay significant surcharges. Commercial property owners will pay much more punitive surcharges.
However, the proposal must still go out for public comment. It also has to receive the buy-in of the national Finance Minister Malusi Gigaba. It may face a hurdle from that quarter, as the African National Congress caucus in the City of Cape Town signalled its intention of opposing the measure.
There is also expected to be a major fall-out among Democratic Alliance voters in the city. The leafy suburbs of the city have overwhelmingly given the DA its electoral backing – but this issue is likely to make people question their continued allegiance.
Former Democratic Alliance MP Mark Lowe said the surcharge was “another reason why De Lille and the DA are heading for a shock in 2019.” He said that De Lille’s proposal “is both irrational and crazy. Charge (should be) by usage of water NOT by value of property.”
Haskin agreed. He said his party believed the savings ratepayers had realised by using less water – with a ceiling of 87 litres per person per day – should remain in the ratepayers’ pockets so they can fund their own water savings projects for their households. “The City should fund its water revenue shortfall from other sources…. not the ratepayers.”
Before the vote ANC leader in the council, Xolani Sotashe, said: “People cannot be held responsible for the recklessness of the administration, and this is a serious indictment of the current leadership in the City of Cape Town led by Patricia de Lille.”
The result of the vote in the city council cannot be verified, but one source said it was 144 for the surcharge proposal and 51 against it with three councillors abstaining. The ANC and ACDP were among the parties which voted against it.