Pretoria - Political parties in Tshwane have unanimously opposed a move to form an appeal committee through which disgruntled residents can challenge a municipal budget.
According to the parties, the committee, if established, risked taking away the decision-making powers of council.
The formation of the appeal committee emanated from an interim court ruling made by the Gauteng High Court, Pretoria, in favour of the flight schools at Wonderboom Airport.
The schools operating at the airport approached the court to seek relief after the City of Tshwane increased their rental fees by an effective 139% to 321%, according to the 2021/2022 municipal budget.
This was despite the fact that for the past 40 years the schools paid 20% of the standard fees applicable to commercial and private aircraft.
The court granted an interim order, which required the City to set up an appeal committee through which the schools could lodge an appeal about the steep increases.
Initially the City agreed to an order based on legal opinion sought from its legal department.
However, this week political parties in council vehemently disagreed with the legal opinion on the grounds that it would set a precedent whereby a budget passed by the council could be overruled by the appeal committee.
The legal opinion elicited by the City said that an appeal committee could be established in terms of Section 62 of the Municipal Systems Act.
Mayor Randall Williams said the report resulted from a court case that was brought by the Wonderboom airport tenants, raising unhappiness about tariffs contained in the budget approved by council .
“The court case involved an interim order and not the final order, an interim order being granted against the City; that the City must establish an appeal committee to hear the appeal of the tenants against the tariff contained in the budget,” Williams said.
He said the sought legal opinion was riddled with several problems.
“First of all the legal opinion only covered Section 62 of the Municipal Systems Act and not the Municipal Finance Management Act as well as the related legislation. When you write a legal opinion you need to look at all the applicable legislation to the issue, and this was not done. And then there is also a problem with an interpretation given by council to Section 62.”
He said the move was risky in that it could see the council’s decisions being overruled by the committee, which was against the act.
“And yes, the risk that the council would face means that if a budget is passed on May 30 that any resident can then use Section 62 to challenge the budget and force council to immediately amend the budget after July 1… after the budget has taken effect.
“In terms of the legislation that is not allowed. Once you have approved the budget you can’t amend it, and any resident can apply to have a budget amended several times,” he said.
Williams had planned to call a meeting yesterday with the view to go back to court to argue for a final judgment hoping that it would “overturn the interim judgment that was given”.
ANC councillor Terrence Mashigo said: “We are equally surprised from the ANC that a report of this nature is brought to council. We are surprised that we want to form a structure that is above council which is a legislative authority. You can’t form a committee inside the council that is above the council; that is the first mistake.”
The EFF’s Tshilidzi Tuwani also blasted the DA caucus, saying he was “disturbed by this kind of a situation”. He said due courses were not followed to ensure the report sufficed “to an extent that we are able to deal with it”.