Taxpayers may cover councillors’ homes

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Thabiso Thakali

Taxpayers will now fork out millions of rands a month to pay a special risk insurance cover for the country’s more than 10 000 councillors and their own properties against violent service delivery protests.

This comes after the Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Richard Baloyi published a notice in a government gazette last week compelling all municipalities to take the special risk insurance for councillors.

The directive forms part of the newly published wage increases, allowances and benefits of municipal mayors, speakers, members of the executive, chief whips, committee members and councillors.

An elected full time municipal councillor can earn up to R747 000 a year, depending on the grading of a municipality, in a package that includes travelling, housing, cellphone allowances, pension and medical aid contributions.

The gazette orders municipalities to take out cover similar to risk insurance to provide for loss or damage to a councillor’s property or assets arising from any riot, civil unrest, strike or public disorder or ensure that councillors have such cover for their properties.

The gazette places responsibility on the councillors to provide all necessary details to a municipality regarding property or assets to be covered by the special risks insurance.

If a councillor takes out a risk policy to cover the loss of or damage to a property or assets arising from riots, on submission of the statements paid on the insurance, the municipality must refund the insurance amount, it says.

In September, the SA Local Government Association chairman Thabo Manyoni told a special national conference that councillors needed risk cover against the real risk exposure they face in their capacity as local public representatives.

Salga made representations to the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers.

“Overwhelming evidence of councillors being killed in the line of duty, their properties being damaged… or their persons being injured, paints a very bad picture of how government appreciates the dangers inherent in being a local public representative,” Manyoni said at the time. “It is a sad state”.

Manyoni added that the lives and property of councillors were often placed at risk due to issues outside their sphere of governance – over Eskom’s prepaid meters, or poor hospital or police services.

According to Municipal IQ, a local government data and intelligence service, this year has had the largest number of service delivery protests since 2004.

The service’s findings showed that 2012 accounted for 22 percent of protests recorded between January 2004 and July 2012, with January 1 to July 31 recording more protests than any other year since 2004.

In July, a Soweto councillor’s house was set alight when about 300 residents protested over prepaid electricity meters in Chiawelo.

Municipal IQs findings included that:

l Protest activity rose dramatically in the first eight months of this year, with 226 protests;

l If trends continue, this year will have more than twice as many protests as last, and more than in 2010 and 2011 together;

l The Western Cape surpassed Gauteng as the province with the highest number of violent protests this year;

l Before 2012, the Western Cape recorded the most protests in an election year;

l The Western Cape, Eastern Cape and Gauteng accounted for 56.98 percent of protests;

l Land and housing were the most cited issues, 303 in the six-year period. Poor service delivery was second, with 218 protests.

Grievances related to broken promises and government officials ignoring protesters’ complaints have risen exponentially since 2010 but account for less than 10 percent of complaints.


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