How Cape Town determines who gets free water

By Staff Writer
The policy allowing households to receive 6 000 litres of free basic water per month could soon be coming to an end. This is following an investigation by the South African Local Government Association (SALGA).

However, at the moment, the City of Cape Town has two methods in which they determine who receives free water.
Ernest Sonnenberg, City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee Member for Utility Services explained that there are different criteria that the City of Cape Town uses in order to categorise households as indigent (poor households).

The blanket approach

Under this approach all properties with a municipal property valuation of R200 000 and less are automatically categorised as indigent, unless proven differently.

Also under this approach, properties that have a municipal property valuation between R200 000 and R300 000 are “dealt with in terms of the Water Leaks project and in terms of the Credit Control and Debt Collection Policy. 

“These properties, together with a municipal property valuation of R200 000 and below, all receive a monthly water indigent grant, allowing for 10 500 litres of free water per month, instead of the 6 000 litre of free water per month.

In order for the household to receive the applicable benefits, a prepaid electricity meter and a Water Management Device (WMD) will be installed free of charge to ensure responsible water usage and conversation,” explained Sonnenberg.

The targeted approach

Under this approach, “households can register as indigent based on the gross total household income of R5 000 0r less per month,” noted Sonnenberg.

“In order for the household to receive the full benefits/ applicable benefits once their applications have been approved, a prepaid electricity meter and a Water Management Device (WMD) will be installed free of charge for those whose gross total household income of R3 500 or less per month,” added Sonnenberg.

If the gross total household income is more than R3 500 but less than R5 000 per month, you can apply for the following rates and refuse rebates:
  • An income between R3 501 to R4 000 receives 75% rates and refuse rebate
  • An income between R4 001 to R4 500 receives 50% rates and refuse rebate
  • An income between R4 501 to R5 000 receives 25% rates and refuse rebate
Households not deemed indigent
Sonnenberg noted that for households that are not deemed indigent according to the above criteria, and have outstanding debt, there are a number of “debt management actions that are taken in adherence to legislation and Council-approved by-laws and policies.” He highlighted that when looking at debt, the City of Cape Town deals with municipal debt historically.
If debtors are able to pay, but choose not to or are in arrears with their municipal accounts, and have made no arrangements with the City to pay these funds, Sonnenberg pointed out that the following actions can be taken:
  • The restriction of water (put onto a trickle) for residential debtors and the disconnection of water for businesses/commercial debtors
  • The disconnection of electricity supplies for all debtors
  • The blocking or limiting of purchasing of pre-paid electricity for other municipal debt owed
  • Adverse credit listing (black-listed)
  • Handing over to attorneys for legal action, which could lead to a sale in execution of the property to recover the municipal debts
If you are struggling pay your municipal accounts, the City of Cape Town has policies and procedures in place to help you. These include:
  • Entering into an affordable payment arrangement with the City.
  • Apply to be registered an indigent
  • Apply for rates relief for senior citizens (if they are 60 years)
  • Disabled persons (any age and receiving a disability pensions/grant) and their total household income is R12 000 per month or less, receive a rates rebate based on the level of income.

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