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Thursday, January 23, 2014

Day 502: Government Ignorance - Deliberate or Just Plain Stupid?

http://www.witness.co.za/index.php?showcontent&global[_id]=112951

THE first signs of the negative impact of the Msunduzi Municipality’s massive electricity tariff increases have become evident, with several businesses announcing their immediate or imminent closure.
Michael Selby has a sign outside his Mayor’s Walk Internet cafe, announcing its closure at the end of this month.
He is not the only casualty of the city’s commercial tariff hike of well over 900%.
In downtown Pietermaritzburg, the long-established Popatlall Kara’s is having a closing down sale and Nafique’s Boutique has already closed. Popatlall Kara’s is one of the city’s oldest sari and Eastern wear fashion houses.
Others — like the Soni Jewellers stores, which have been in business in the city for 120 years, and Berjak’s Picture Framing, which has operated for over 46 years — have adopted a wait-and-see attitude.
Chris Berjak is waiting for the National Energy Regulator of South Africa’s (Nersa) decision on the tariff before deciding on whether to close.
Hemantlal Soni joined forces with other businesses and, at a meeting yesterday, a decision was taken to fight the municipality on the tariff issue. “We are not going to sit back and allow the municipality to walk all over us. With these tariffs we can neither balance our books nor can we pass on the increases to our customers, because they are the working class and already burdened,” Soni said.
He added that momentum around their cause was building up. “We already have the full support of attorneys and senior counsel, who are prepared to take our case free of charge,” Soni said.
However, Selby is not prepared to wait; his mind is made up.
“If they are made to change this tariff, they will try to get the money some other way. It is not just the tariffs, it is the way they spend our money. Instead of fixing the potholes or getting more traffic police, our money is being spent on concerts and brick roads. Quite frankly, I am gatvol,” said Selby.
The sign outside his shop says, “We apologise for the inconvenience that will be caused by losing the Internet cafe, but there is nothing we can do, as the municipality is bleeding us dry.”
Four people, including Shelby, will be jobless. “With the rate of unemployment in this country, how can the municipality justify their increases, when all they are doing is adding to the unemployment rate?” he asked.
“I cannot increase my prices as my customers cannot afford to pay the amount that I would have to charge to stay alive,” said Selby.
Fazila Bhamjee has cajoled the downtown business community into fighting the tariff increases.
Bhamjee said that many had no choice but to fight, because their shops were their bread and butter. “We have to fight this or how else are we going to support our families? We don’t have the luxury of being able to close.”
Bhamjee said the business community was infuriated by the lack of feedback from councillors and officials. “In past elections, ANC councillors came to us for funding and support. Now when we call them about this tariff increase, they turn their backs on us. “We are going to fight them for bleeding us dry and killing local business. We are also fed up that this has been dragging on. The municipality is blaming Nersa,” Bhamjee said.
A survey conducted by the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci) found that businesses under pressure from increasing costs might soon start passing the increases to consumers.
Sacci CEO Neren Rau said small and medium enterprises surveyed said they were worried about the high cost of doing business, particularly due to electricity prices, municipal levies and the cost of complying with regulations.
Rau said the national chamber was aware of the local tariff issue and had fully supported the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB) in its representations to Nersa.
He said businesses did not have the capacity to absorb costs in the present economic climate. In Pietermaritzburg, however, the increases were too high to pass on to customers. He said such hikes end up with disastrous consequences: businesses close and jobs are lost.
Rau said municipalities needed money to fund their operations and raising tariffs was an easy way to get that money. However, money could also be found if inefficiencies were addressed.
“There is a need to deal with these inefficiencies as municipalities will reach a point where they simply cannot go on raising tariffs. Communities are also beginning to fight back because they are tired of throwing money that disappears down a bottomless pit, and there is little to show by way of service delivery how the money is being spent,” Rau said.
- The Witness

http://www.witness.co.za/index.php?showcontent&global[_id]=113211

MSUNDUZI has been slapped down by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa), ordering the municipality to reverse crippling tariff hikes imposed on city businesses.
Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business CEO Melanie Veness read out a letter on the reversal, sent to her by Nersa, to a packed meeting at Chamber House yesterday.
She said the new letter was addressed to the municipality. In the letter, Nersa said the municipality was applying its tariffs incorrectly and that they must be changed.
The development comes as city businesses close or threaten to close under hikes that saw some charges rise by 900%.
The basic charges approved by the energy regulator had included the MCB or net ampere charge and they had only approved a seven percent increase along with other power charges.
But when the municipality sent out bills to businesses they massively hiked the basic charges by 900%, rising in some cases from an original amount of R49 to R661.
Nersa CEO Phindile Baleni wrote in the letter: “The basic charges that Nersa approved for these tariff categories is made up of the basic charge and the net ampere charges (MCB) applied for by the municipality.
“In light of this there is no need to charge net ampere charges (MCB) over and above the basic charges that Nersa communicated to you in the above-mentioned correspondence. This has always been the way that these tariffs were approved and communicated to you in the past and you implemented them correctly.
“However, in the current year the municipality implemented the basic charges and net ampere charges (MCB) separately resulting in double counting of the net ampere (MCB) charges.”
Baleni then went on to provide a table of charges that saw the commercial basic charges go right back to what they were before the hikes, less than R50 a month. - The Witness


The citizens of Pietermaritzburg are none too pleased with the municipal government. The municipality has had a rough couple of years thanks to mismanagement and corruption. The municipality has been trying to clean up its image, but every now and then it does something ridiculously stupid that sets it waaaaay back. Like put local businesses out of business because of massive electricity tariff hikes instead of implementing other changes to cut costs. Like stop being corrupt. You know. Simple things.

In the Witness newspaper today (for Mayor 'didn't know' - council reverses tariffs, claims anger was a surprise. Now obviously that is just downright ignorant, simply because the people working for the municipality (especially the big wigs) actually think that other people are going to believe that. Thanks. Unfortunately, many of the people working for the government did not even finish high school (like the president of South Africa who received no formal schooling). But then again, it's not like an education in the current system is actually very useful, especially with all the stunting of original thought and creativity and such (also the lack of discipline) - but that's another blog. So back to the article from today: the mayor claims to have not known about the outrage regarding the tariff hikes, blaming the citizens and local organisations for not informing him of the peoples' anger. He claims to not read newspapers too often, further pleading his case of ignorance. The whole matter has been circulating around the city for weeks, and if I am not mistaken, it is the job of the Mayor to make sure that the needs of the citizens are met and that their voices are heard.
which I am unable to provide link due to the paper's website demanding that I pay for that privilege), the headline was

I can imagine that similar scenarios are common across the country and even the world - where those people working in the government just don't have any idea what they're doing. There is no single cause (aside maybe from human stupidity) for these all-too-common issues - it is a combination of factors all to do with the current human condition.

I suppose that there is one root reason for all those different causes existing: the people who are working in government do so for their own personal gain and not for the upliftment and improvement of their community (or country, world etc).

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