Msunduzi ratepayers threaten legal action over poor service delivery
DURBAN - FED-UP Msunduzi Municipality ratepayer organisations are threatening legal action against the municipality, a move that could see some municipal services being taken over by residents.
The Msunduzi Association of Residents, Ratepayers and Civics (Marrc), an umbrella body of various ratepayer organisations, said it was forming a committee that would enlist the service of top legal minds to decide on a course of action. It said ratepayers under the municipality were becoming increasingly dissatisfied with the level of service delivery and had even threatened to withhold their rates.
The ratepayers’ actions were spurred by court rulings across the country that gave precedent-setting judgments that gave powers to residents over poor performing municipalities.
The unprecedented move came as the municipality was battling to keep the lights on, with some areas having been without power for more than 24 hours. Earlier this month, several residents were without power for days after the Retief Sub-station caught fire. Recently, large parts of the Vulindlela area, home to thousands of residents, were subjected to long water outages, with the area now relying mostly on water tankers.
Other service delivery failures include uncollected refuse, poor management of the landfill site and the general decay of infrastructure. Some opposition councillors said while they understood the frustration faced by residents, withholding rates would collapse the municipality as the operations were largely funded by rates.
Anthony Waldhausen, chairperson of Marrc described the city’s failure to deliver services to residents as “dereliction of duty.” He said they were considering all legal options, including getting involved in service delivery or taking over the delivery of some services.
“We will be forming a committee that will engage with lawyers to look at the way forward,” he said.
Waldhausen said Marrc had witnessed two court judgments against the municipalities of Makana, where the municipality had been dissolved and in Kgetlengrivier, where the Kgetlengrivier Ratepayers Association in the North West took over the running of the water and sewerage provision in Koster, Swartruggens.
“These court judgments have set an important legal precedent for holding municipalities accountable. These successes and current deepening crisis in the municipality, have spurred Marrc on to begin to consider engaging attorneys to take legal action against the Msunduzi municipality where evidence of malfeasance is found,” he said. He said in September they engaged the municipality in a virtual meeting and alerted the mayor and municipal manager Madoda Khathide that residents and ratepayers were becoming increasingly frustrated by the lack of service delivery.
“Over the past six months of discussions, the municipality has either not responded to our various communication and/or have reneged on their commitments. We have reached a point where residents and ratepayers have lost trust and patience with the Msunduzi Municipality.
“While we do not encourage a rates boycott (as we consider it to be irresponsible and illegal), we have little influence on individuals who elect to vent their frustrations by withholding payment of their municipal bills,” he said.
DA councillor Sibongiseni Majola said they understood the frustration of the residents, but they did not support the withholding of rates.
“We understand the frustration of the residents. We cannot expect them to pay for services they are not getting or that more than half of the population takes for free. But withholding rates will be the official collapse of the municipality,” he said.
Msunduzi mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla accused the organisation of using the issues for political games, adding that the city was continuing to engage extensively with the ratepayers via these organisations.