eThekwini’s new budget not pro-poor, say parties

eThekwini Municipality mayor Mxolisi Kaunda tabled the final budget for the 2024/25 financial year during the eThekwini Municipality’s council meeting on Friday. Picture: Supplied

eThekwini Municipality mayor Mxolisi Kaunda tabled the final budget for the 2024/25 financial year during the eThekwini Municipality’s council meeting on Friday. Picture: Supplied

Published May 6, 2024


Durban — Ratepayers of eThekwini and political parties have expressed their discontentment with the tariff increases tabled by the City at a council meeting on Friday.

They felt the increase was a foregone conclusion and that despite a drop the hikes were still too high and did not benefit the community.

Tabling the 2024/25 financial year budget on Friday, eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda stated that:

  • The electricity tariff increase has been reduced from the proposed 14% to 12.72%, which is equivalent to the Eskom tariff increase.
  • The property rates tariff increase has been reduced from the proposed 7.9% to 6.5%.
  • The water tariff increase has been reduced from the proposed 14.9% to 12.9%, in real terms. This increase will be directed to the maintenance, upgrade, security, and building of new water-related infrastructure, he said.
  • The sanitation tariff increase has been reduced from the proposed 12.9% to 10.9%.
  • The refuse tariff increase has been reduced from the proposed 8% to 7% for domestic and reduced from 9% to 8% for business.

Kaunda said the total budget for 2024/25 was R67.2 billion, made up of an operating budget of R59.5bn and a capital budget of R7.68bn.

“As we mark 30 years of freedom and 24 years of democratic local government, we remain steadfast in our commitment to bring meaningful change to millions of people.

“I hereby table the annual budget for the 2024/25 Medium-Term Revenue and Expenditure Framework of the eThekwini Municipality for approval by council," Kaunda said.

Allison Schoeman, vice-chairperson of the Bluff Ratepayers & Residents Association (BRRA), said this was a similar situation to that of 2023 when, despite considerable objections, only a marginal concession was made.

“The adherence to the National Treasury’s formalistic guidelines by the mayor indicates a disconnect from the realities faced by the residents of eThekwini. These guidelines fail to reflect the actual economic circumstances of our community,” she stated.

Schoeman emphasised that the budget, repeatedly shaped by these national guidelines, does not serve the specific needs of eThekwini, a city distinct in its challenges and demographics.

“It is impractical and unhelpful to apply a one-size-fits-all approach to budgeting. The current budgeting framework not only overlooks the unique aspects of eThekwini but also contributes to widening economic disparities, counteracting the intended pro-poor claims by inadvertently escalating unemployment rates within the city,” she said.

Schoeman said they strongly advocate a complete overhaul of the budget process.

“We need to discard the existing framework and draft a new budget document that incorporates extensive input from all city stakeholders.

“This new budget should aim to genuinely empower every citizen and reflect a clear, visionary strategy that listens to and addresses the needs of eThekwini’s residents,” she said.

Schoeman, who is also a committee member of the eThekwini United Ratepayers, Business and Civics Organisation (Eurbco), highlighted the detrimental impact of the City’s fiscal policies on local small businesses, which she described as the backbone of eThekwini’s economy.

“Small enterprises, crucial to our economic vitality, are increasingly burdened by financial pressures. Many are struggling to cover their operational costs, and unfortunately, this often results in the need to reduce staff just to stay afloat,” she said.

She stressed the irony in the City’s approach, noting that these very employees, identified by the City as part of the economically disadvantaged, were the ones most at risk.

“By failing to support our small businesses effectively, the City is inadvertently exacerbating the problem it aims to solve.

“The retrenchment of these workers not only deprives them of their livelihoods but also places an additional strain on the City’s social services. This cycle significantly contributes to widening the economic gap among the residents of eThekwini,” Schoeman added.

IFP councillor Jonathan Annipen said they believed the budget was not pro-poor as it did not address the issues of ailing infrastructure – in places like Verulam and Umkomaas.

The budget was devoid of any action that would be taken against parastatals and government institutions to pay their debts, he said.

The budget was tabled without policies associated with debt recovery and credit control, he said.

“These policies do not speak to recovering debts from government institutions – that owe us a great deal of money. In the budget, there is no clear indication as to how we will deal with the near 60% water loss. It is a burden to the ratepayers,” he said.

ActionSA KZN premier candidate Zwakele Mncwango said the party rejected the City’s increases as the amended increases still exceeded the Consumer Price Index increase of 5.3%.

Mncwango said Kaunda labelled the tariff hikes as the “people’s budget”, even though these increases would burden the residents of eThekwini.

“Many of them endure long periods without access to basic services like water and electricity, yet are still required to pay for them. This situation can only be described as exploitative,” he said.

DA eThekwini caucus leader Thabani Mthethwa said residents were not given a decent opportunity to be part of the consultation process due to last-minute changes to dates and times, while almost all councillors only got sight of the lengthy budget document at the 11th hour.

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