No matter which way the City of Cape Town tries to spin it, the fixed charge for water (and electricity) is exploitative.
Tegwen Matthews, chair of the sectional title, Bay View, which has five apartments, in Bantry Bay, said they are paying a fixed charge of R2 500 per month and each owner is contributing R500 towards it, but the total water bill is just R570.
So she wanted answers and wrote to the municipality.
“The City is charging us a standing tariff of R2 500 a month despite our total water usage for the five apartments being R570 a month.
You have advised us previously this is because we are attached to a 100mm pipe when the property was built some 14 years ago. Each apartment owner is now paying R500 on top of our individual water usage, which is just over R500 for all of us.
The monthly charge of R2 500 is unfair and out of proportion to our total water usage. Please can I ask you to once again review this unfair charge. It is no fault of the owners that we are connected to the main pipe as agreed by the developers when the block was built.
Apartment blocks of similar size and recently constructed just three buildings away from us in the same street are not required to be attached to the 100mm pipe, so this is clearly not a requirement for a building of this size, but more likely to have been a cost-saving measure for the developers at the time.
The R2 500 standing charge against a R570 water usage is totally unfair and an onerous charge for us all to pay each month,” Ms Matthews wrote.
She said all previous pleas to the council got nowhere.
“We are told basically it’s tough luck and they can’t do anything. This only came to light since the implementation of a standing water charge. All other domestic pipes are 28mm and that is how the building should have been connected 14 years ago and the charge for a 28mm pipe is R115 a month. There is another charge for sewage which is linked to usage and is R494.25 for all apartments,” she said.
As I expected Ms Matthews got short shift from the City.
Xanthea Limberg, mayoral committee member for water and waste, said the fixed charge is based on the pipe connection size to the property.
“In this instance, as mentioned by Ms Matthews the pipe was installed by the developer. Making the charge related to the size of the service connection was done on the basis that larger connection sizes are required to service properties that require greater inflow for showers, baths, geysers and washing machines, among others.
In addition, in a complex, such as Bay View, the developer would have installed a larger pipe to adequately cater for the five households. If a meterd connection size is too small for the property it could lead to low water pressure or supply interruptions on the property when many appliances are in use by the households at the same time.
Larger metered connections on properties with more loading factors lead to increased infrastructure costs for the City, as larger metered connections require a greater level of access to the water supply. This in turn will influence infrastructure requirements further up the network (larger bulk pipes and higher water pressure), to ensure enough water is available for the property to have, as far as possible, sufficient water inflow for its maximum needs.
The decision to implement fixed charges was taken to increase stability of the water and sanitation system in case of another extreme drought in coming years. Introducing a fixed basic charge, as part of the tariff, was aimed at making the tariff more resilient.
The introduction of the fixed charge was aimed at addressing possible revenue shortfall in future by ensuring that resources remain available to operate, and maintain even during periods of reduced water consumption. A fixed charge allows the City to keep the price per kl of water lower than would otherwise be required to operate a sustainable and reliable water supply system. The cost to provide the water service remains largely the same regardless of the usage,” Ms Limberg said.
Tanur does a U-turn
Philip Heppell of Fresnaye spent R18 000 on a Longines automatic watch from Tanur Jewellers at the V&A Waterfront shortly before he and his wife left for overseas.
While they were on holiday the watch lost time, stopped and had to be rewound again. This happened a lot. When the Heppells returned they went to Tanur explaining the problem and asked for their money back as they were entitled to do under the provisions of the Consumer Protection Act.
However, the staff at Tanur, store manager, Melanie Stockmann and Jewelvest’s brand manager, Aimee Lentz, didn’t want to know and insisted there was nothing wrong with the watch.
Mr Heppell asked me to intervene but Tanur were adamant (“Store says no to exchange on our watch”, Off My Trolley, February 27/28).
Lorna Lloyd, chief executive of the Jewellery Council of SA, agreed to mediate but because of a dispute of fact, closed the file.
Meanwhile Mr Heppell continued to fight for justice.
“After appealing to Longines for the fourth time I wrote a long letter together with your article to Sean Joubert the CEO of Tourvest, the owners of Tanur, and sent it by registered post. Within a week I had a phone call from Tanur saying they were willing to give me my money back. I went to see them and they refunded me but no apology. Next stop was TAG Heuer Waterfront and within an hour I had a new watch and I am very happy. Many thanks for your help,” said Mr Heppell last week.