The city should move with urgency to ensure it implements one of its pillars – the advancing pro-poor development to provide meaningful redress, says the writer. File picture: Motshwari Mofokeng/Independent Media
It's the City of Joburg’s responsibility to shield the poor during hard times, writes Dr Rabelani Dagada.

It's the City of Joburg’s responsibility to shield the poor during hard times.

Former president Nelson Mandela once remarked: “A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”

These words still resonate today, even in the City of Joburg chambers.

Madiba's words should at all times be a guiding voice to every sphere of government in formulating and implementing plans and policies – knowing they would be judged on how they have transformed the lives of the less fortunate citizens.

As Joburg is about to conclude its Integrated Development Plan (IDP) consultation process with communities, the city should move with urgency to ensure it implements one of its pillars – the advancing pro-poor development to provide meaningful redress.

This is particularly important because the IDP is not just the city's plan for the next five years, however, it's a social contract with the people, established to protect the rights of the people.

It’s a tool that ensures the society is able to hold the City accountable to deliver services.

Earlier in the year, the City of Joburg also held a series of consultation meetings focusing specifically on the property rates component.

Communities gave their inputs.

Business, property owners and ordinary citizens made their cases and urged the City of Joburg to consider the harsh economic environment, when raising the property rates.

A pensioner in a meeting in Lenasia pleaded with the city to offer relief to those like himself, who have spent their lives contributing to the economy of this city as workers.

Now that they are pensioners and no longer have a stable income, and have spent all their savings on extending and beautifying their homes, they wanted the City of Joburg to give them a break.

This is a sentiment we fully agree with.

With competing interests, the city has to play a balancing act.

The financial sustainability is a key focus as the council is required to continually meet its developmental objectives and deliver on its commitments.

We are more and more expected to do more with less.

Aside from the funds generated from government grants, bond issues and bank loans, the city derives most of its operating income from ratepayers in the form of property rates and from providing municipal services such as water and electricity.

The City of Joburg, in turn, then spends the revenue on delivering services and financing developmental projects intended to improve the lives of citizens.

These developmental projects come in the form of critical infrastructure such as clinics, parks and recreational facilities, safety and security and roads, among others.

In keeping with Mandela’s wise words those years ago, as the city we would be pushing more to ensure that the less fortunate residents, the poor and especially pensioners are shielded from the rising cost of living and the weak economy.

The city will use its resources to ensure that a significant number of struggling pensioners and the vulnerable can still afford to stay in their homes.

As part of its strategy of assisting the poor, the City of Joburg aims to keep the tariffs as low as possible.

In an environment where there is an increasing demand on limited and fast depleting resources, the city has to continue to set its tariffs so that there is sufficient revenue to meet the needs of all of its residents.

The City of Joburg recognises that there are several vulnerable households and will promote its Expanded Social Package (ESP) programme, which allows eligible ratepayers to receive allocations of free water according to their financial position.

The city is taking away the free 6kilolitres of water it used to give to all residents every month, irrespective of their economic circumstances.

The city will only give indigent residents free water, increasing it to 15kilolitres every month depending on the band each indigent resident qualifies for.

By taking away the free water from those who don't need it, the city will bolster the efforts to curb water wastage and save at least R320million, which it would plough back into the communities.

We want to increase the number of pensioners who are benefiting from the rebates on their homes.

We also want to ensure that other categories of the city's residents, such as child-headed households, people who are on pension because of a disability and are receiving grants, and the poor who qualify in terms of the city's poverty index receive rebates.

We are in trouble as a country and can't afford to neglect to take care of the less fortunate in our communities.

* Dagada is the MMC for finance in the City of Joburg.

** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of Independent Media.

Saturday Star