‘Stop playing hide and seek with us,’ Durban ratepayers rep tells mayor Mxolisi Kaunda

23 April 2024 - 09:48 By Lwazi Hlangu
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Ratepayer representatives at the Durban Exhibition Centre opposed tariff increases.
Ratepayer representatives at the Durban Exhibition Centre opposed tariff increases.
Image: Lwazi Hlangu

eThekwini ratepayers associations feel “insulted” by the absence of mayor Mxolisi Kaunda in a budget consultation meeting to discuss the city’s proposed tariff hikes.

Kaunda, with other senior municipal officials including the city manager and CFO, did not pitch at the consultative meeting with ratepayers at the Durban Exhibition Centre on Monday.

Angry ratepayers called the mayor’s absence disrespectful.

Kaunda’s absence was said to be due to health issues and council speaker Thabani Nyawose attended the meeting instead.

Akhur Moodley from Chatsworth Concerned Citizens ) said the absence of key roleplayers was a disappointment, especially that of Kaunda.

“The leaders who were supposed to be here are not. They very conveniently avoid being here because they know what they’ve done and are too afraid to confront ratepayers. The message must go through that he [Kaunda] must stop playing hide and seek with us. Elections are coming up and I think that’s going to tell a lot of things.”

We're not getting value for our money
Busi Ntshingila from the Musgrave Ratepayers Association

Imraan Bennett, eThekwini Ratepayers and Residents Association spokesperson, said Kaunda’s absence was an “insult”. .

“We stand here very insulted that the mayor is not here. This meeting should be deferred until he is available. We’re all here to say the same thing: there is to be no rates increases until such time,” said Bennett.

Some residents pointed out that Kaunda had skipped other budget hearings with ratepayers, including a similar meeting last year.

Terry MacLarty, chairperson of the uMhlanga Ratepayers and Residents Association said: “I, too, feel insulted that the mayor has chosen not to join us. If he couldn’t make it he should have delayed the meeting and made it at a time convenient for him to be there. This is the second time. I went to a community meeting which was supposed to be a consultation meeting for Ward 35 on Wednesday and the mayor did not show up and people are not happy.”

Calls to walk out were put aside when Tholithemba Mthiyane from the Verulam Civic Association argued there was not enough time for a postponement since consultations should be wrapped up by April 30, and urged ratepayers to use the opportunity.

“Our inputs have to go to the final document which will go before council next week. If we’re going to delay this process we will be delaying ourselves and the council because it has to sit and approve the budget on April 30. It’s a mandate given to the council.”

He said Kaunda’s absence due to sickness should be acknowledged since there was someone representing him who would relay the message, and he proposed ratepayers write a formal complaint to voice their concerns.

The ratepayers collectively rejected the budget, saying it was “unjustified” and “unaffordable”.

Busi Ntshingila from the Musgrave Ratepayers Association said they had a meeting with Kaunda last year but he had not kept his word and allegedly had avoided them for the past six months.

“We're here to reiterate that we've done our research, we have our costs, we know how much we contribute but we're not getting value for our money. We've spoken to your supervisor and he's not coming to the table.”

Council speaker Nyawose said it was clear from the meeting that ratepayers associations were not happy with their services, the billing system and the city’s challenges affecting tourism and the business community. 

He said there was no need to invite departments to respond to the comments because “the message is clear from this meeting that the draft budget is being rejected”.

Nyawose said he had noted ratepayers’ concerns with the mayor’s absence. 

“Leadership of ratepayers associations are not happy with the mayor being absent in this meeting. Some are highlighting meetings that were held last year where the mayor attended and made commitments that he would come and address issues.”

While he apologised on behalf of council for the city’s shortcomings, he pointed the finger at local government structures, including ward committees and councillors.

“If they are not doing that [attending and hosting meetings regularly] they are putting pressure on the office of the mayor to do their jobs. The mayor can’t meet ratepayer associations all the time.”

He said the local government system in the wards appeared “dysfunctional”.

“Those concerns and dissatisfaction will be conveyed directly to the mayor and his office by myself.”


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