eThekwini Municipality wants rates from Ingonyama land
DURBAN - THE eThekwini Municipality has reiterated that it intends to go after affluent residents who live on Ingonyama Trust land and should be paying the city for services.
The matter was mentioned in a report tabled before a full council meeting last week. Over the past few years there has been a shift in property ownership in which many people who had been living in city suburbs have settled in rural areas.
The Ingonyama Trust holds 2.8 million hectares of land under its control in KwaZulu-Natal. It owes the municipality millions of rand for services.
It is not the first time the city has set its sights on the matter. In
November last year, the city said it was in “talks” with the Ingonyama Trust to find a path that would allow them to bill these residents for rates and services.
The report before the council last week stated: “Legal advice must be sought on the possibility of taxation of individual properties in respect of Ingonyama properties that have been developed on Ingonyama Trust property and have a threshold value above the exemption in the rates policy.”
EThekwini acting city manager Sipho Cele said the city’s interest in pursuing the matter had not waned.
He said the city had previously gone to court, which had found that Ingonyama was liable for the debt and went even further to state that the individuals on the land were liable for the debt. He confirmed that the city was currently engaging with the trust to find an amicable solution.
“It’s not an adversarial engagement, we are engaging with the trust to find a solution that will be amicable to both parties.
“We appreciate that the engagements have taken quite a while and the debts might be huge, but we do not want to pre-empt the outcome of the negotiations,” said Cele.
Attempts to speak to the chairperson of the Ingonyama Trust, Jerome Ngwenya, were unsuccessful.
However, in November he said a committee had been set up by the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs to address the issue of rates and services.
Meanwhile, the city has developed a debt write-off strategy to deal with irrecoverable debt.
The strategy “aims to serve as a structured framework within which to critically analyse the municipal debtors’ book to determine whether a debt in question is collectable or uncollectable”, a council report said. The write-off strategy states:
◆ All debt of insolvent estates where there is a risk of contribution be written off.
◆ That body corporate rates debt prior to July 1 2008 be written off.
◆ That all debt where consumption of services cannot be allocated to a consumer be written off, and where the municipality could not allocate the service point to a specific customer; that those service points be registered as departments’ consumption points.
◆ That debt as a result of unpaid water loss claim be considered for write-off, it being noted that all debt on properties valued up to R250 000 be written off as well as all indigent households, it being recorded that as regards properties above this level, based on investigation, a write-off would be considered.
The plan to write of the debt received support from opposition parties. They said the city should clear the debt it could not recover from its books.
DA councillor Warren Burne called for more details to be provided on the debt and the amounts involved.
The party said it supported the need for a strategy to deal with the municipality’s outstanding debtors problem, which was getting worse.