Much of the 2011/12 budget, which has increased from last year’s R25.9bn, would go towards beefing up the metro police force and hiring thousands of new staff.
But to pay for all this increased expenditure, ratepayers would have to dig deeper into their pockets.
The cost of water will increase by 7.5 percent for residential properties and 12.5 percent for businesses, while electricity, because of tariff hikes by Eskom, was set to go up by 19.8 percent from July, never mind we had and increase of water and electricity of 9.5 percent and 25 percent respectively!!!
Sanitation, rates and solid waste and cleansing have each been increased by 6.5 percent.
The DA’s Dean Macpherson said that the already high rates and fees for electricity and water usage were “unattractive” to new residents and businesses.
“This policy of continuing to take from those who are easier targets (who can afford the increase) is what will destroy the city,” he said.
“How dare we ask for more money when we can’t manage our own debt,” he asked, referring to the municipal debt owed by residents totalling R4.3bn.
It seemed, Macpherson said, that the municipality was short on economists and oversupplied with populists.
The Minority Front agreed with Macpherson.
“Increasing tariffs will not resolve problems, but will add to the burdens of an already burdened ratepayer base,” said the party’s Patrick Pillay.
The DA and MF did not approve the budget.
The overall budget comprises a R23.5bn operating budget that would ensure that the city was able to deliver services to communities, and a R5.1bn capital budget “to ensure that we continue with our infrastructure projects”, Mayor Obed Mlaba said in his speech to council members.
Mayor Obed Mlaba
These infrastructure projects included the allocation of R230m for the rehabilitation of houses in so-called R293 areas (areas in which low-cost housing was built by the apartheid government), and the upgrading of hostels.
The eThekwini Municipality had succeeded in building an average of 16 000 housing units over the years, he said.
And even though health care was not the focus of the municipality, the budget for this had been increased by R21m to R368m because KwaZulu-Natal had the highest HIV/Aids infection rate in the country, and also to try to prevent the spread of tuberculosis.
Job creation would also be the focus of the municipality in the coming financial year, said Mlaba.
“We will be revisiting the municipality as an ‘incubator’ for fresh graduates.”
The workforce would be increased by 23 588 positions, he said, with the Parks and Recreation department seeing the biggest increase.
The budget for the Metro Police, meanwhile, has increased by R126m to R525m.
Macpherson, clearly unhappy with the budget, invited the council to follow in the footsteps of the DA in the Western Cape, saying the party had taken over a cash-strapped municipality and turned it around.
The ANC’s Nigel Gumede said the budget was “more than enough” and that the municipality had made achievements “beyond (its) targets”.
The IFP’s Mdu Nkosi expressed concern at the high cost of electricity.
“It’s already too expensive for many to be able to afford it,” he said. He also called for an independent audit on the municipality’s resources.
Mlaba mentioned in his speech that although the effects of the global recession still continued to be felt, eThekwini was fortunate to have been “cushioned” from its full impact because of its success in hosting the Soccer World Cup.
However, this was disputed by members of the opposition. Pillay said the Moses Mabhida Stadium was a “nightmare” for ratepayers because they had to pay for its maintenance.