Is sneaky little R40 fee the final straw?

Image: Gallo Images/ IStock

Forty rands may not be a lot of money in the greater scheme of things, but when you toss in a sneaky little charge like this to the already high cost of electricity, it is enough to make residents’ blood boil.

Add it to fuel costs that climb more often than they decline, a consequent rise in transport costs, and looming food and meat price increases amid a continuing drought, when so many people either have no jobs or have had no, or negligible, salary increases, and the situation is ripe for a citizens’ revolt.

You can only squeeze people so far, and no more.

On the other hand, municipalities are caught in a vicious cycle to which there appears to be no solution – as electricity costs spiral upwards, more people go off the grid and municipalities suffer a drop in income.

And so they must find new ways of bringing in money. The extra charge kicked in on July 1 with the new electricity tariffs, scoring almost R1m more a month for the city’s coffers.

Many people did not even notice this little money-spinner quietly added to their bills, but those who did are furious – and they are demanding the money back.

According to Nelson Mandela Bay spokesperson Kupido Baron, the R40 charge is to cover the cost of meter readings, along with the processing of electricity users’ accounts.

And it only applies to those who do not have prepaid meters – for now.

Once the logistics are worked out, people with prepaid meters will also have to cough up the extra charge.

People who make use of a municipal service that enables them to read their own meters and phone it in, with the municipality only auditing their meters once or twice a year to keep them honest, say the new charge is unfair and they feel ripped off.

The ratepayers’ association has also been inundated with complaints.

The charge was not part of the draft budget that was put out for public participation but was included in the budget finally approved by the council.

Surely it should have been put to the residents in a different forum than the Nersa hearings, which very few residents attended, before being included in their bills?