Sbu Sithole File photo: Sibusiso Ndlovu

Durban - In the next financial year, the eThekwini Municipality will use R21.2 billion of its total operating budget of R30bn on housing and infrastructure to accelerate delivery.

The balance will be allocated to other clusters including community and emergency services (R2.6bn), finance (R2.5bn), the office of the city manager (R1.4bn), economic development and planning (R1.1bn), governance (R4.9 million), corporate and human resources (R4.1m), uShaka (R2.3m) and the ICC (R1.6m).

City manager S’bu Sithole, who presented the city’s final budget to the executive committee and department heads at the Protea Hotel in Karridene on Tuesday, said housing had the biggest budget to address the backlog.

The budget will be tabled before a full council meeting on Thursday for approval.

Sithole said that during the budget hearings, issues like housing projects started and not completed, houses being in poor repair, electricity connections, water leaks and requests for ablution facilities had been raised by the public. Sithole said that R14.8bn was from service charges and the rest from grants and subsidies, rates, the fuel levy, interest on investments, rent, fines and other income.

Tariff increases remained unchanged from the earlier proposal with electricity set to rise 7.4 percent, water 9.9 percent for domestic use and 12.9 percent for business. Refuse removal and sanitation were to rise 7.9 percent and rates 6.9 percent respectively.

Unhappy about the water increases, the DA’s caucus leader, Zwakele Mncwango, said 12.9 percent was too much for business. “If you charge businesses so much, it will come back to the customers,” he said.

DA councillor Heinz de Boer agreed, saying the tariff had to be revised.

He asked if the city was investing enough in water infrastructure. “(The) government is not coming to the party,” he said, claiming that there was money that was not being recovered from government departments.

ANC councillor Fawzia Peer said departments should not “dump” their budgets at the end of the financial year, but should use the money to deliver even on the smallest projects. “We have to show the public that we are using the money well,” she said.

Deputy mayor Nomvuzo Shabalala said she welcomed the budget because its focus was on job creation.

However, Shabalala said she was unhappy that the budget for the economic department had been cut. She said the budget for events coming to Durban had also been reduced.

“These are events that we use to sell the city. How are we going to do that if we don’t have a budget,” she said.

In response, Sithole said he agreed this had to be revisited during the process of adjustment, but that spending in the current year had been far better than the previous three years

. On rates, Sithole said they had tried to ensure that the tariffs were affordable. “We have consulted with business on the matter and that is why you won’t get any of them being critical of the increases.”

Sithole said they were still looking for additional funding.

Mayor James Nxumalo said the city would work “24 hours” to reduce service protests.

The Mercury