eThekwini mayor on billions unspent, victory over ratepayers and spiralling crime

02 November 2023 - 17:41
eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda and officials conduct a tour at the Kingsburgh water plant before a briefing on city affairs.
Image: Lwazi Hlangu eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda and officials conduct a tour at the Kingsburgh water plant before a briefing on city affairs.

The eThekwini municipality has announced progress in the introduction of smart policing technology after a spike in violent criminal incidents around the city.

There have been mass shooting incidents and shoot-outs between police and criminals over the past few weeks, particularly in the northern townships of KwaMashu and Inanda. These have raised the issue of the smart policing technology rollout that was promised by eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda, including body cameras and CCTV cameras in the city centre.

Kaunda was speaking during a report-back on a number of issues, including:

  • the controversial suspension of the Public Employment Programme (PEP) which is part of the presidential stimulus package;
  • the outcome of the legal challenge by the Westville Ratepayers' Association; and
  • the rollover of unspent conditional grants of R1.88bn, of which R1.5bn relates to the municipal disaster recovery grant. 

City manager Musa Mbhele said they were expecting to fully implement critical aspects of the smart policing tender by June next year.

“Some aspects of the tender have been finalised and we can give the time frame of the end of the financial year for us to say we will have fully implemented all the critical aspects of that particular tender,” he said.

Mbhele could not be drawn on the strategy being used to uproot these criminal activities but said the city was working with the police. He added that the process of recruiting more metro police had began but they needed more.

Kaunda said CCTV cameras in the inner city are being repaired and an announcement on the completion of project was expected by the end of the month.

“We are busy repairing CCTV cameras, with our target end November. All the city centre cameras should be operational, including the Glebelands cameras that normally give us challenges. They are part of the repairs that we are conducting.”

As the city gears up towards the festive season, Kaunda said, all but one of the beaches are open for swimming and they will be monitored with Adopt-A-River through their water testing lab Talbot.

A big part of opening most of the south and north beaches is that Ohlange, Kingsway and Warnerdoone pump stations, which were responsible for polluting these beaches, are now operational.

Kaunda said ongoing governmentwide budgetary constraints had resulted in the suspension of the PEP programme, which has affected close to 5,000 beneficiaries.

“This is indeed a disappointing development that is beyond the municipality’s control. However, we are exploring various funding solutions internally to extend the programme to December this year.”

With regard to the city's victory over the ratepayers' association in the high court, Kaunda said the judgment was also important for other municipalities. 

“The judgment paved the way for the city to ensure that residents who are supporting the rates boycott pay for services, including penalties, interest and reconnection fees. We also want to state that where residents who have been disconnected are found to have illegal connections, the meter will be removed,” Kaunda said.

“In fact, the court has agreed with us that ratepayer associations cannot take the law into their own hands and withhold payments that are lawfully due to the city. It has consistently advised and cautioned residents to refrain from such action as it is unlawful. We hope that this court decision will act as a deterrent to such unlawful behaviour.”

On the issue of the R1.5bn grant, Kaunda claimed the city had applied to the National Treasury for a rollover.

“We tabled a report at the council meeting to clarify our grants expenditure and the reasons why we have applied to the National Treasury for the rollovers. It is important to indicate that the municipality has not forfeited any grants to the Treasury.”

“Importantly, the R1.5bn was received only in March 2023, three months before the end of our financial year. In terms of the grant framework, the municipality has 12 months to spend the grant. Therefore it was impossible for the municipality to complete supply chain management processes of 700 projects worth R1.5bn within three months.”