The municipal debt collector cometh

09 May 2018 - 14:01 By Bongani Mthethwa
Image: Cox

The KwaZulu-Natal cooperative governance and traditional affairs department is on a mission to recover a whopping R16.4-billion - almost the equivalent of that budgeted by the treasury to run the country's education system.

MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube is pushing ahead with her relentless effort to recover the debt from municipalities in the province‚ which includes R512-million owed by national and provincial departments‚ R1.1-billion by businesses‚ R5.1-billion by households and the remainder by other consumer debtors.

This debt is based on figures reported by 24 municipalities.

Spiralling consumer debt to the municipalities prompted the department to launch a “Pay Your Levies — Nothing 4 Mahhala” campaign which was launched in eDumbe (Paulpietersburg) in northern KwaZulu-Natal earlier this year.

During the cooperative governance and traditional affairs budget vote on Friday last week‚ Dube-Ncube revealed that within a month of the launch of the campaign R17-million was recouped from consumers.

As part of moving the campaign to KwaDukuza on the KZN north coast‚ Dube-Ncube and KwaDukuza Mayor Ricardo Mthembu will join ratepayers’ associations‚ big business and community members on Thursday to sign a pledge to pay for municipal services.

Before the signing ceremony‚ department officials will swoop on rates and service defaulters in a blitz where they will be served with bills and advised of actions to follow.

“The campaign is appealing to municipal residents’ civic consciousness in paying for municipal services and it has already turned a deficit in uncollected revenue into a positive cash balance in eDumbe. Revenue enhancement is a prerequisite for long-term viability of our municipalities‚” Dube-Ncube told the media ahead of the budget vote last week.

The provincial department was allocated an overall budget of R1.679-billion for the 2018/2019 financial year with R1.094-billion going towards personnel-related expenditure‚ including izinduna (headmen) allowances.

This‚ said Dube-Ncube‚ would leave the department with R584-million - with R463-million allocated for goods and services‚ R29-million for transfers‚ of which R14.1-million relates to transfers to municipalities‚ and R92-million for capital expenditure.

“It must be noted that the department has budget pressures which are not presently accommodated in the base line budget‚” said Dube-Ncube.

One of the serious challenges faced by the department is the payment of 3‚150 headmen and headwomen who cost the taxpayer in excess of R300-million per annum.

Izinduna each earn around R8‚000 a month and questions have been raised about sustainability with opposition parties saying their payment was crippling service delivery in the province.

Dube-Ncube told the KwaZulu-Natal legislature in Pietermaritzburg last week: “We continue to respond to the challenges of the payment of izinduna. While most of the work has been done on the verification and payment of izinduna‚ we continue to work hard towards creating and maintaining a credible database of izinduna.”