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Claims of rigged voting over doubling cost of appealing valuation of property tariffs end eThekwini Municipality Exco meet

The eThekwini City Hall. Picture: Garth Johnstone

The eThekwini City Hall. Picture: Garth Johnstone

Published Mar 30, 2022

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DURBAN - An Exco (executive committee) meeting at eThekwini Municipality collapsed over alleged rigging during a vote on doubling the cost of appealing against the valuation of property tariffs for the 2022/23 financial year.

In its report, the Exco noted that Section 30 of the Municipal Property Rates Act made provision for any person within a specific period to lodge an objection against a specific individual property valuation.

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Committee chairperson and mayor Mxolisi Kaunda had tabled for a tariff appeal cost from R250 to R500 for residential and R1 000 for non-residential properties for the coming financial year, resulting in opposition parties rejecting the report.

The DA, IFP and EFF all voted in opposition with a total of five votes, while the ANC only had four.

As the mayor read out the votes, Kaunda apparently lost his internet connection while the DA was protesting against the chairperson’s “disregard for the democratic processes”.

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EThekwini Municipality EXCO chairperson, Mxolisi Kaunda. Picture: Supplied.

DA eThekwini leader Nicole Graham accused the chairperson of deliberately going off-line to get another ANC councillor to ensure that the recommendations were adopted.

“The ANC then stalled for five minutes, claiming the mayor was ‘disconnected’, while they connected to their fifth councillor who was in hospital. She joined and tried to vote after the fact.

“The mayor refused to allow a legal opinion, input from technical teams and was dismissive of all opposition leaders. They lost that vote fair and square. We have left the meeting and Exco cannot sit. We will not allow the ANC to carry on like this.

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“I have written to Kaunda and demanded that he uphold Exco’s decision; make the recording available, and apologise. We are considering taking legal action and action against Kaunda. His behaviour is undemocratic, self-serving and unbecoming of his office,” Graham said.

“Not only is there public outcry over the tariffs, but there is a consensus that public hearings should be reconsidered. Doubling the tariffs for residential consumers is concerning, as it puts pressure on the people because we are living in very difficult economic times,” Graham said.

After a half-hour opposition parties left the meeting, causing it to collapse.

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The IFP’s Mdu Nkosi said there was no need for the meeting to collapse as the item was minor.

“The collapse of the meeting was an indictment of the ANC’s arrogance. It was a minor item on the agenda, which did not warrant the kind of response we received. Unfortunately, the time is up for the ANC to be behaving as it has been over the years – it is time it respected processes,” Nkosi said.

Anil Beekrum, the Kenville/Sea Cow Lake Ratepayers and Residents Association vice-chairperson, said property owners should not be punished for the city’s inability to solve the housing crisis.

“Our rates should not be increasing at all. We have a housing crisis which the city itself created. An influx in the informal settlements has significantly decreased our properties, not only private but commercial properties as well.

“We reject the increment and call on the city to hold public service announcement hearings to understand the dire situation we are facing,” Beekrum said.

Kaunda had opened the meeting with remarks regarding previous discussions, especially on the report of the finance, security and emergency services committee, as well as the vandalism of infrastructure in the city. He said that the committee had been engaging communities regarding service delivery.

“In our engagement, we were able to lay the plans we have as a city to service water infrastructure, and the plans we have to come up with solutions to make sure water problems are a thing of the past with the help of uMgeni Water,” Kaunda said.

The committee also voiced concern over the decline in formal sector employment and the City’s Trading Services’ earnings, particularly water and energy distribution losses.

It also expressed concern over unpaid bills from government departments, parastatals and other municipal customers, emphasising the importance of stepping up revenue enhancement efforts, including the disconnection of services where possible.

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