City of Ethekwini acting mayor Fawzia Peer. Picture: GCIS/DoC

Durban – A spat ensued on Tuesday between eThekwini Municipality’s African National Congress (ANC) councillors at an executive committee meeting over scrapping of interest on debt owed by the provincial department of public works (DPW).

The ANC caucus was in disagreement on what decision to take, despite having allegedly agreed at an earlier ANC caucus meeting. This led to an exchange of words between ANC chief whip Nelly Nyanisa and acting mayor Fawzia Peer, also an ANC councillor.

The matter soon escalated as opposition parties prodded the “factional” divide within the ANC caucus, claiming the party’s inability to make a decision should not hamper the business of the council.

Peer is the deputy mayor but is acting in the place of mayor Zandile Gumede, who is on 30 days forced leave after being charged with fraud and corruption last month.

Peer chaired the Exco, at which a report was tabled by the City’s treasury department saying that DPW had requested the reversal of R7.4million in interest on unpaid rates because of under-budgeting.

DPW is the custodian of government properties in KZN and thus responsible for the payment of rates on those properties to the City.

According to the report, when the City re-valued properties in 2017/2018, rates on DPW properties “increased substantially” and objections were lodged.

“The previous year (2016/2017) the rates raised amounted to R249 million and the following year the rates increased to R323 million.

“Public Works has budgeted for R273 million and they had a shortfall of R50 million and could not pay for all the rates raised. Interest was then levied on the outstanding amounts as per the legislation. Currently, the interest amounts to R7.4 million as at 30 April 2019,” said the report.

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) and Democratic Alliance objected to the write-off, saying it would create a dangerous precedent, adding that a write-off would not be allowed for a private individual.

Peer said the write-off would not happen. 

“We are saying we are not accepting any form of write-off. Our credit control act clearly says we can’t write-off interest,” said Peer. 

ANC councillor Sipho Kaunda said the write-off should be considered so that the city could get what was actually owed and “have a clean slate with government”.

Chief whip Nyanisa agreed with Kaunda, adding this was not the first time a request had been made and approved for the writing-off of interest.

Replied Peer: “We have taken a decision not to allow the write-off. Let’s move on to the next item.” Peer reminded Nyanisa that the ANC caucus had agreed on the decision.

However, following comments from the ANC councillors, Peer made an about turn: “Let’s withdraw the item,” she said.

Words were then exchanged between IFP councillor Mdu Nkosi and Nyanisa in isiZulu. Nkosi said Nyanisa must have been asleep during the ANC’s caucus meeting to have missed the decision.

Nyanisa stormed out.

Over the next 10 minutes, Peer claimed she did not reject the report, saying instead she had made a summary of the thoughts of others. The matter was deferred to next week.

African News Agency/ANA