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eThekwini tables the 'people’s budget'

eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda Picture: eThekwini Municipality

eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda Picture: eThekwini Municipality

Published Apr 1, 2021


DURBAN - THE eThekwini Municipality yesterday tabled an ambitious budget that seeks to support the poor, revive the city’s battered economy and give economic relief to ratepayers hard hit by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The budget, which is still in the draft phase, has yet to be debated by various political parties and should be finalised at the end of May. It is wide ranging and lists economic recovery, youth unemployment, facilitation of catalyst projects to spur economic growth and ensuring clean governance as its primary goals.

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The draft budget also details extensively all the development initiatives it hopes to achieve. The total budget for 2021/2022 financial year is R52.3 billion, made up of an operating budget of R47bn and a capital budget of R5.3bn. Key to the draft budget are the tariffs that the city has managed to keep below inflation. With the exception of water and electricity – the tariffs for which are determined by outside factors – all other tariffs were kept below 5%.

Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda described the budget as a people’s budget that seeks to keep the increase of tariffs minimal and to drive new projects.

“It is an undisputed fact that the poor have been severely affected by this pandemic. Equally there have also been huge financial and economic losses suffered by the business community as every sector of the economy has been adversely affected.” He said the city had also been hard hit by Covid-19, which forced companies to close and cost jobs.

“Notwithstanding the impact of Covid and the current state of the economy, tariff increases for 2021/2022 will be at an all-time low. The tariff increases are mainly due to the bulk tariff increases by Eskom and the Umgeni Water Board, which are all above inflation and out of the control of the city,” said Kaunda.

He said property rates and refuse tariff increases had been kept to a historic low of 4.9%. The water and sanitation tariff increase is 8.5% due to the Umgeni Water Board increase of 7%.

The Eskom bulk tariff increase for electricity is 17.8% which has resulted in an increase of 14.9% for electricity by the city and which is the recommended increase for municipalities by the National Energy Regulator of South Africa.

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In their reaction to the draft budget, parties represented in the council adopted different positions, with the DA abstaining while others supported the budget.

The parties that supported the draft budget said they were still uncomfortable with the increased tariffs and asked the city to take action to reduce steep hikes before the budget was passed in the next two months.

Kaunda said: “As indicated earlier, our operating budget is R47bn and the main drivers of this budget are a 12% increase in free basic services to ensure that we support the indigent and those that cannot afford to pay for services, and a 7% increase in repairs and maintenance to avoid any asset or infrastructure failure to ensure the continuity of services.”

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He said it was the municipality’s objective to provide water to 1.16 million consumers via 448 storage facilities, 34 pump stations and 10 purification works.

DA councillor Thabani Mthethwa said they would wait until the budget was finalised in May before they gave their input.

He suggested, however, that the budget was a repetition of things said in the past.

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“You keep saying that you want clean governance, I am afraid you are not going to be popular with your caucus,” he said.

IFP councillor Mdu Nkosi said the city would be able to drop the tariffs further if they did not increase salaries for staff and did not give bonuses.

“What is important is that we commend the team for putting together this budget under trying circumstances.

“As the mayor said, this is a people’s budget. We are saying well done to the team, you have done well,“he said.

Patrick Pillay from the Democratic Liberal Congress said they were not comfortable with the increases and the mayor should look into it.

Meanwhile, eThekwini councillors have directed Kaunda to hold a oneon-one meeting with the embattled city manager, Sipho Nzuza, to discuss his future with the municipality.

This comes after his application to amend his bail conditions was dismissed on Tuesday.

According to sources, the matter was discussed during a special executive committee meeting and a full council meeting yesterday.

The matter was discussed as a confidential item in both meetings.

The Mercury understands Nzuza will be given scenarios of how his future in the council could be handled.

It is understood that the political parties were in agreement that Nzuza had reached the end of the line with the municipality and felt that based on the judgment on Tuesday, there was no other alternative but to part ways.

Nzuza told The Mercury on Tuesday he planned to appeal the judgment.

Mayoral spokesperson Mluleki Mntungwa said he cannot speak on the matter as he did not have information on discussions that were confidential.


Related Topics:

City of Ethekwini