KZN Cogta MEC Sipho Hlomuka has promised harsh action against those defaulting on municipal debt but has also said consumers can expect a period of grace to come clean. File picture: Doctor Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA).

DURBAN - The KwaZulu-Natal government's efforts to claw back R20.1 billion in debt owed to its municipalities could lead to defaulters having their properties attached, the province's MEC for cooperative governance and traditional affairs (COGTA) said on Thursday. 

Sipho Hlomuka made the announcement at the launch of the "Masakhane, Let’s Rise and Build Campaign" in the Ugu district on the province's South Coast. 

He said defaulters could have their properties attached under the Municipal Systems Act, Municipal Finance Management Act and in accordance with municipal bylaws. 

Hlomuka said other interventions included a period of grace for defaulting residents, or those who had illegal water and electricity connections. Municipalities could also look at incentivising those who paid for municipal services. 

“Currently the province’s municipalities are owed R20.1-billion in total by various consumers. Out of this total, domestic consumers account for R14-billion, which is 70% of the total debt. It is for this reason that we have unveiled this programme whereby we will be embarking on an awareness drive calling on consumers who owe their municipalities to come forward and make the necessary arrangements to pay-up,” said Hlomuka.

He said the department was working with municipalities to update their indigent policies so that residents who qualified could take advantage of the policies.   

Earlier in the day, Hlomuka met with local ratepayers' associations, businesses and NGOs working in the Ugu district, where consumer debt is currently sitting at R600 million. 

Timelines were set at the meeting to address concerns raised by businesses that they alleged were hampering their ability to invest in the tourist hotspot. 

The department said Hlomuka would be visiting other districts to engage with local stakeholders and "troubleshoot" some of the challenges faced by municipalities in their efforts to enhance revenue.  

African News Agency (ANA)