Ethekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede

Ethekwini Mayor Zandile Gumede has called on the women and men of integrity to say “thuma mina” (send me) to protect vulnerable women and children. “It is time to say enough with the abuse in celebration of the centenary year of Mama Albertina Sisulu,” Gumede said.

The mayor was speaking during the State of The City Address where she stressed that the city was determined to fight corruption and that it would not be tolerated even if carried out by municipal workers. She said the fight against corruption was a means for the city to attract more investors and called on the support of businesses to help the municipality’s war against corruption.

The city concluded its special seating for consideration and adoption of the budget for the year 2018/19 financial year. The budget was supported by the majority of the political formations represented at council, except for the DA, ACDP, DLC and MOSA.

Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) could not vote because they walked out of the sitting after they tried to raise a motion against the mayor – but the Speaker would not allow them to table it. The party’s chief whip of the EFF in eThekwini, Bonginkosi Ngiba, told reporters in the City Hall foyer that they have “lost confidence” in Gumede’s ability to lead the municipality.

Democratic Alliance (DA) leader in eThekwini Nicole Graham said that they would also file a motion of no confidence in Gumede in the next sitting.

Gumede said the Budget was set against the backdrop of slow economic growth where tough choices had to be made to achieve the development outcomes of the city. She said economic challenges would continue to pressurise municipal revenue generation and collections in 2018/19 which is why a conservative approach has been adopted when projecting expected revenues and receipts.

Providing information from StatsSA, she said a report stated that the city’s quarterly unemployment rate decreased to 21.9 percent during the fourth quarter of 2017 after 23.3 percent in the 3rd quarter with approximately 1.9 million people living below the poverty line in 2017 in the eThekwini Metropolitan area. “We need to work harder to address this challenge,” she said.

The total budget is R45.8 billion which comprises of an operating budget of R38.7 billion and a capital budget of R7.1 billion. She said despite increasingly challenging circumstances, service delivery will continue to be sustained through this budget by re prioritising expenditure to ensure key objectives are achieved.

In terms of tariff increases, residential properties valued up to R230 000 will be exempt from paying rates. All other properties valued above R230 000, no rates will be charged on the first R120 000. For pensioners, child-headed households, disability grantees and the medically boarded, in addition to the above exemptions, a rebate not exceeding R4 364 has been approved.

Water: The first 6kl of water is free to households with property value under R250 000.

Electricity: The first 50kwh of electricity is free to residents using less than 150kwh per month in Eskom reticulated areas. The first 65kwh of electricity is free to residents using less than 150kwh per month in eThekwini reticulated areas.

The tariff increases are as follows:
• Property Rates will increase by 6.9 percent, electricity will increase by 6.84 percent while Eskom increases by 7.32 percent.
• Water will increase by 15 percent for domestic and 15.5 percent for business while the Umgeni Water Board increase is set as 13.7 percent.
• Refuse and Sanitation will increase by 9.9 percent.

Gumede said the main driving costs relate to bulk purchases of water and electricity which make up R11.2 billion or 32.9 percent of the operating budget while staff related costs of R10.4 billion or 30.5 percent and contracted services which make up R5.08 billion or 14.9 percent of the operating budget.

These three costs make up almost 80 percent of the budget. “Unfortunately, we have little control over the bulk purchase costs and salary related costs as these are determined outside of the municipality. NERSA and Eskom determine the electricity increase, Umgeni Water Board determines the water increase and the South African Local Government Association together with the labour unions determine the salary increase,” she elaborated.

Gumede said they remain committed to reducing costs and ensuring value for money for ratepayers and have implemented numerous austerity measures.