Tshwane budget may be legally disputed

New charges mean some residents pay fixed fees for water and sanitation – not according to their usage.
Tshwane currently has no council, mayor or a permanent city manager. Image: Moneyweb

Residents of Tshwane who have been shocked by new fixed charges for water and sanitation could see the city’s R37 billion budget being challenged.

Civil society groups and political parties allege that the city’s administrator Mpho Nawa exceeded his powers when he approved the budget that was implemented on July 1 and at least two groups are preparing court applications to have it reviewed and set aside.

This comes amid the background of a leadership vacuum with no council, no mayor and not even a permanent city manager at the helm.

A court hearing next week could however steer matters in a different direction.

Gauteng MEC for Human Settlements, Urban Planning and Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Lebogang Maile intervened in Tshwane earlier this year, after consecutive council meetings ended in chaos. He deployed a group of administrators under the leadership of Nawa, in terms of s. 139 of the Constitution.

Read: Tshwane municipality placed under provincial administration

The Democratic Alliance (DA) obtained a High Court order to have Maile’s decision set aside, but the ANC and EFF lodged an appeal to the Constitutional Court.

The DA then obtained a further order to restore the status quo pending the finalisation of the appeal, but the ANC lodged an appeal against that order as well.

Its second appeal will be heard next week and if dismissed, could send the administrator packing and put the DA back in charge of the city administration.

Fixed fee fury

The new charges that have residents fuming, provide that consumers who use up to 9 kilolitres (kl) of water per month no longer pay according to usage, but a fixed fee of R120.

The amount corresponds with what consumers used to pay for 9 kl per month, but those who have used less have seen huge increases.

Moneyweb has seen the municipal bill of one elderly lady who lives alone, showing that she paid R23.22 for 2kl last month, in line with the tariffs in the previous budget, compared with R120 for 3kl in the latest bill.

A similar tariff structure has been introduced for sanitation, with a fixed fee of R70 per month and no cost based on usage up to 9kl per month. This compares well with the R82.50 consumers used to pay for 9kl, but is dramatically more than the R16.42 they would have paid for 2kl.

Small and poor households are disproportionately impacted by the new tariff structure, says Morné Mostert, head of local government at AfriForum.

He says the city failed to inform residents properly about the drastic tariff changes during public consultation on the budget.

Lex Middelberg, chairperson of the Tshwane Money Matters Caucus (TMMC), considers the fixed fees to be a form of municipal tax, as it bears no relation to actual consumption. He says the metro council is only allowed to introduce new municipal taxes with the approval of Finance Minister Tito Mboweni and only after it has been promulgated in the Government Gazette. This, Middelberg says, has not been done.

Read: AG: How to improve the state of our municipalities

Challenge coming

Both AfriForum and the TMMC are preparing to challenge Nawa’s approval of the budget in court.

They argue that he has exceeded his powers by approving the budget. In the absence of a legally-constituted city council only the provincial executive may approve a municipal budget. It will only be a temporary budget, to be replaced by a final budget as soon as the council is reconstituted.

The Freedom Front Plus concurs, as does Advocate Werner Zybrands, emeritus professor in municipal governance.

Mostert says AfriForum will insist on compliance with these legislative requirements, including proper public participation on the temporary budget. AfriForum will use that opportunity to fight the new fixed charges.

Middelberg also questions the new property valuation roll that was implemented with the budget on July 1 and says the public consultation in this regard was lacking.

In the budget document published on the city’s website, its legal counsel addresses the “debate” about Nawa’s powers. They indicate that after investigating the matter, they are convinced that he does indeed have the necessary powers to approve a final budget. Their interpretation is that a temporary budget is only relevant if the city failed to pass a budget before the start of the new financial year on July 1, which was not the case in this instance.

Nawa in fact passed the budget a day before, on June 30.

DA mayoral candidate Randall Williams says the party hopes to regain control of the city next week. In light of the court’s pronouncement that the administrator’s appointment was unlawful right form the get go, the party will have to obtain legal opinion on how to “unscramble the egg”, he says.

Read: Finally! R446m in rates relief for Joburg residents, businesses

COMMENTS   12

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Absolute dysfunction in Pretoria at the moment. Refuse all over the city, no services, traffic lights out of order for more than 3 weeks. Water leaks not attended to. In all my years I have never seen the city so dirty.

This is another South African municipal failure. Dunno why we bother to pay rates and taxes.

As in Cape Town, you are paying rates to support the supply of free services to thousands of “informal residents” surrounding your city.

dunno about that, Beachcomber. We have friends who live across from Plastic View out east. There are zero services, nothing. The river is the toilet. She gets up in the morning to the sight of folks washing themselves out in the open. Rubbish is simply dumped around the area. Murders are commonplace and the cops ignore the place. Another set of friends next to the Hennops have raw sewage drifting down the river day and night. They will never be able to sell their house. The stink is so bad you cannot sit on the stoep. So except for cadres who score off contracts I don’t see anything being done on municipal level at all at the moment. And don’t think the DA was much better before you assume only the ANC are terrible.

To boepens … Agreed. But there are so many hundreds of thousands ready to riot a a moment’s notice that they have no option. In Masiphumele in Noordhoek a new bus terminus and fire station.The shacktowns like Du Noon get flooded every winter and sand dunes in a False Bay nature reserve invaded and built up on terraced dunes. I just cannot see this ending well…

Remember that time when the City of Tshwane municipality spent about R 4-million a day on the Peu contract that was decided by the High Court of Pretoria to be unlawful and illegal

In the process of selling my house located in The Wild (Pretoria East). I will receive 20% less than what I have paid for it 7 years ago. Don’t want anything to do with Pretoria again, everything is increasing far more than inflation and zero service.

Another ANC success.

@expat6.

It’s not only a problem related to Pretoria, sorry I mean Tswannie, but it’s universal across South Africa.

When a ship slowly sinks, the intrinsic value of deck chairs will lose their value/importance.

Wow anc making South African ungovernable one municipality at a time. Actually they have messed things up pretty well all over, does anyone have a copy of the Afrika Ratings report?

Let’s be clear – ‘Pretoria’ used to be a city in the Transvaal. It was extremely well managed, very clean, safe and pretty, and had a proud heritage. This was changed into the despicable, atrocious and irredeemable mess that it is today. I therefor totally agree with the ANC, the media and the majority of citizens that a name like ‘Tshwane’ is much more befitting the putrid heap of dung it was transformed into.

Indeed. Our once previously attractive town declined from a Klerksdorp to a Matlosana.
You’re welcome to pay a visit, but ensure that your vehicle is NOT fitted with low profile tyres. Beggars on every corner, irrespective of colour or creed. Bulk electricity about to be cut by Eskom due to arrears.

Proudly ANC of course.

Absolutely. Pretoria was a city established by the Voortrekkers. The new name, “Tshwane”, is a fictitious invention, named after an imaginary so-called chief for whose existence there is no evidence. But then, this is how they roll. The can only invade and destroy, not build or create.

End of comments.

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