The City of Cape Town has defended its decision to start the process of public participation on its proposed drought levy in December.

The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (OUTA)  and a group called Stop C.O.C.T have described the city’s decision to do this in December when people are away on holiday, as ‘underhanded’.

The groups want the city to start the process in January when most people have returned to work. The levy to mitigate the worsening effects of the prolonged drought will come into effect on the 1 February, subject to approval from the Minister of Finance.

“The public participation process, despite it being during the festive period, is also longer than the ordinary public participation period. The public comment period for this drought charge commenced on the 6 December and closes on the 12 January. There is also been extensive communication campaigns in respect to the drought,” says Mayoral Committee Member for Water, Xanthea Limberg.

Outa says it will consult with its lawyers on Tuesday after the City of Cape Town failed to meet Friday’s deadline to respond to its letter of demand to scrap the proposed drought levy.

The levy is based on property value rather than water consumption. The city plans to use the revenue to fund its water augmentation schemes.

Outa Portfolio Manager for Water, Julius Kleynhans, says it is unacceptable to burden residents with harsh taxes.

“A letter of demand puts the mayor on terms to respond within a specific time frame and it seems like the mayor has accepted it as a public participation submission, which is completely different. So, we will be sitting with our legal team on Tuesday and we will probably take the next steps and and hopefully, even see them in court soon.”