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MUNICIPAL BUDGET

City of Tshwane tables R50bn budget aimed at improving finances — amid EFF disruption

City of Tshwane tables R50bn budget aimed at improving finances — amid EFF disruption
EFF and ANC councillors clash at a Tshwane municipal council meeting in 2023 over the reinstatement of municipal workers dismissed for participating in an unprotected strike over pay increases. (Photo: Gallo Images / Beeld / Deaan Vivier)

The indebted City of Tshwane has tabled its R50.6-billion budget aimed at turning its financial position around and improving the lives of its more than four million residents.

Jacqui Uys, the MMC for Finance, delivered the City of Tshwane’s budget on Tuesday, 4 June at the Council Chambers in Tshwane House amid attempts by EFF councillors to disrupt the sitting.    

The first attempt came when EFF councillor Benjamin Mathebula asked Uys to raise her voice, claiming she was barely audible. This came long after she began speaking and had in fact been audible.

This was followed by multiple points of order and heckling by EFF councillors, some of whom kept shouting that Speaker Mncendi Ndzwanana was seemingly “scared” of Uys. The remark appeared to irk Ndzwanana as he loudly responded: “I am not scared of anything.” 

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Tshwane finance MMC Jacqui Uys. (Photo: Neil McCartney / The Citizen)

The red berets later said Uys did not inspire confidence and should not proceed with the budget but instead email it to all councillors. Ndzwanana had to warn the EFF councillors multiple times in an attempt to restore order and allow the sitting to proceed.

The city’s proposed R50.6-billion 2024/25 budget includes R48.3-billion in operating costs and R2.3-billion in capital infrastructure investment. 

It shows that residents will feel the pinch when electricity tariffs increase by 12%, water and sanitation by 5.9%, property rates by 5% and a 5% hike for refuse removal by 1 July 2024.

For a greater part of 2023, the city was candid about its severe financial constraints, part of which it attributed to the previous ANC-led administration, which had been at the helm for nearly two decades before being replaced by a DA-led coalition in 2016.        

Read more in Daily Maverick: Tshwane municipality wilting under bad finances and scandal

The city could barely pay its debt, including to Eskom and Rand Water, and its finances were further crippled by a protracted municipal strike by workers who were demanding a 5.4% salary increase, the final phase of a three-year wage agreement signed at the South African Local Government Bargaining Council in 2021.

Salary increases

tshwane budget salaries

Litter on the corner of Johannes Ramokhoase Street and Esíkia Mphahlele Drive in Tshwane on 10 September 2023 during the South African Municipal Workers Union strike over the city’s decision not to increase wages. (Photo: Gallo Images / Lee Warren)

The city refused multiple times to bow to political pressure to grant the salary increases, saying it was unfeasible to do so. On Tuesday, however, Uys delivered what would be good news for employees. 

She announced that the 2024/25 financial year budget had made provision for salary increases of 5.1% for employees and 5% for councillors.  

“We have had difficult years of no increments and this will offer a little bit of relief to all. The city values its workforce. We have hard-working officials in this city who are worth every cent they earn,” said Uys to loud cheers.

“Despite making provision for salary increments, the city remains in a financially challenging position. Therefore, all employees should continue working to help with the financial rescue of the city,” she said.

Revenue collection

Tshwane has also been battling with revenue collection, particularly from its debtors, and as a result has had to introduce Tshwane Ya Tima, a campaign to clamp down on clients who fail to pay their bills, including households and businesses, in an attempt to claw back some of the more than R6-billion owed to the municipality.

Uys revealed that the city had already issued almost 40,000 letters of demand to defaulting consumers who run up high service bills and fail to pay the city.   

Read more in Daily Maverick: Tshwane cuts defaulting customers’ electricity in bid to stabilise finances, improve service delivery

In addition, she said a project management office has been established to take charge of each aspect of the city’s revenue value chain. This includes rolling out prepaid electricity meters, dispatching bills, speedily resolving disputes and implementing credit control and debt collection measures such as issuing summons against debtors. 

Community safety  

The city has allocated a combined budget of R4.5-billion for the 2024/25 financial year. Uys said this allocation would help enhance safety and drive quality emergency services for residents. 

R3.4-billion will go towards the Tshwane Metro Police Department to empower officers to fulfil their mandate, which includes road policing, by-law enforcement and crime prevention.

“R1.038-billion will go towards the Emergency Services Department to continue rendering lifesaving services and to strengthen the department’s capacity to effectively respond to emergencies,” said Uys.

Water and sanitation

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Elvis Nkuna fetches water from a community water tank in Mamelodi, Tshwane, on 7 February 2024. (Photo: Gallo Images / Lefty Shivambu)

Provision of clean, potable water has been one of the city’s biggest headaches as thousands of residents, particularly in Hammanskraal, lack access to clean drinking water. Dozens of people died in that area as a result of a cholera outbreak in 2023.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Promises, Promises, Promises – Hammanskraal residents despair of political solutions in killer water crisis

Uys announced that the Water and Sanitation Department had been allocated R536-million for the current financial year. Of this, R150-million will be used for the Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment Works Phase 1 upgrade.

Several other initiatives are aimed at refurbishing, upgrading and constructing water reservoirs in and around the city.

“When we speak of our commitment to the Mayoral Charter of ensuring sustainable water and electricity supply, it is not just political talk – we mean business. We care about the provision of potable water and uninterrupted power supply to our residents,” she said.  

Clean city  

The Environment and Agriculture Management Department has been allocated  R2-billion which will, among other services, go towards household refuse removal, clearing illegal dumping, the maintenance and management of reserves and resorts and taking care of the animals.  

Housing   

Uys announced that a combined operational and capital budget of R1.1-billion has been allocated to the Department of Human Settlements.

Of the R1.1-billion, the city’s Group Property would receive just over R1-billion to focus on the management and maintenance of its core buildings that house city employees.

Meanwhile, R55-million will be made available for the relocation of beneficiaries in informal settlements to permanent stands.

Audit improvements

The MMC said the city’s budget did not promise a utopia, but was focused on turning the tide of the city’s financial position.  

Reflecting on the city’s recent successes, Uys cited the 2022/23 Auditor-General’s report which showed an improved outcome – from an adverse opinion to a qualified audit outcome.  

“We managed to clear two of the three adverse audit findings identified by the Auditor-General, and we now focus on clearing the third relating to property, plant and equipment.”  

In April, Moody’s changed the city’s financial outlook from negative to stable, while maintaining its junk status. Ratings Afrika found that the city had achieved the best improvement in financial sustainability of all metros in 2023.

“This trajectory is the outcome of the current political leadership’s commitment to clean governance, with a strong focus on our oversight role,” said Uys. 

Councillors from the parties represented in council will debate and vote for the budget on Thursday. DM

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