Defend Truth


Break the cycle of SA municipal decay by addressing ballooning employee costs, incompetence


Wayne Duvenage is a businessman and entrepreneur turned civil activist. Following former positions as CEO of AVIS and President of SA Vehicle Renting and Leasing Association, Duvenage has headed the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse since its inception in 2012.

At the heart of municipal decay lies a plethora of incompetence and unprofessional conduct. Increasing the workforce and a greater reliance on consultants won’t solve this problem; it merely compounds the financial strain and infrastructure deterioration.

Municipalities are grappling with a growing dilemma of ballooning costs associated with their employees and other service providers. This trend, evident over the past 15 years in South Africa, paints a concerning picture. 

On average, local government employee costs have surged by more than 10%, far outpacing inflation. These rising expenses, alongside unchecked increases to suppliers and consultants, are indiscriminately pushed on to residents. 

It’s a cycle that needs breaking.

Unlike the competitive landscape of the private sector, municipalities operate without direct competition. This reality creates a blind spot for municipal management, who often overlook stringent cost controls and the need for employee productivity improvement. 

This situation has culminated from years of inadequate financial management, resulting in public sector salary scales that exceed those in the private sector.

Compounding the problem is the absence of accountability for lacklustre output and insufficient productivity enhancements in local government. 

The outcome is an annual surge in operational costs, prompting municipalities to turn to residents for more revenue while offering less in return.

This precarious scenario has now reached a critical juncture. 

Citizens, fed up with escalating costs and diminishing services, are resisting payment and seeking alternative solutions to their supply of water, electricity and other essential services normally provided by municipalities. 

The more municipalities thrust irrational and excessive increases onto their customers, the stronger the backlash – a growing sentiment that is manifesting in towns and cities across the nation.

The different approaches to addressing these problems and the respective fallout that takes place are playing out in the metros of Tshwane and eThekwini, where clashes have erupted between officials, administrators and residents, borne out of previous unprofessional and mediocre municipal leadership, which has given rise to prolonged hikes in salaries and other excessive expenses.

Tshwane’s Mayor Cilliers Brink faces severe cashflow strain that stems somewhat from past unsustainable salary and service provider increases. His leadership is finally addressing the issue by curtailing salary hikes to levels below inflation, despite anticipated union unhappiness.

In eThekwini, on the other hand, prior mismanagement has also led to escalating salaries and costs, leaving the city financially depleted and its productivity and service delivery plummeting. 

However, mayor Mxolisi Kaunda’s resistance to acknowledging and dealing with the problems within the city’s administration has exacerbated citizen unrest, leading to a tax revolt by some resident associations.

Unless checked, Kaunda’s unsustainable stance will spell economic disaster for eThekwini over time. 

Unlike the private sector, where customer-centricity is a hallmark of success, municipalities often disregard this principle due to the absence of the ability for quick switches to alternative service providers, when it comes to residents and businesses within the boundaries of poor-performing municipalities. 

Over time, citizens either relocate to areas with better offerings or implement solutions themselves, but in the short term this is not so easy and they adopt a position of resistance and pushback.

For municipalities like eThekwini, provincial and national intervention is needed to prevent further damage to the economy and investor confidence. 

At the heart of the municipal decay lies a plethora of incompetence, and unprofessional foresight and conduct. Increasing the workforce and a greater reliance on consultants won’t solve this problem; it merely compounds the financial strain and infrastructure deterioration.

Excessive valuations and tariff hikes are pushing residents to their limits. 

Municipal charges, now a significant portion of household budgets, compete with essential expenses. This trend discourages property ownership and middle-class growth, which adds to the economic crisis facing towns, cities and the nation.

Unless there’s a fundamental shift in local government leadership’s approach, the situation will spiral out of control and municipal tax revolts will become a widescale nationwide reality. 

It’s time for meaningful action, not just rhetoric and discussions.

In sum, municipalities must recognise their responsibility to citizens, rein in expenses, reduce their bloated employee costs and prioritise efficient service delivery. 

Only through genuine change can we avert an impending catastrophe. DM


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Robert Pegg says:

    This is exactly what is happening in most Municipalities. Years ago, Mayors and Councilors were not paid salaries, they offered their services to benefit their communities. This all changed and we now have duplication with paid officials taking instructions from paid Councilors. These same Councilors are not only on the gravy train, they interfere in the appointment of departments staff to benefit family and friends. Overstaffed departments and out of control overtime claims go on with no accountability. Annual operational budgets are disregarded which leads to overspending. This is made public in annual audited reports, but no one is held accountable. It’s no wonder ratepayers are sick and tired of picking up the costs and some are refusing to pay.

  • Rob Fisher says:

    The “Vote with your feet” crew have left the building.
    The “Vote with your wallet” crew are here for the duration.
    “Rich” ratepayers are leaving municipal services as fast as the afford to.
    When all the ‘paying’ ratepayers are off the grid then where will the money for all the fat cat municipal managers come from?

    • Guntram Buchhold says:

      I guess from taxing solar installations and boreholes plus higher property rates by charging the value of the installations. Why otherwise does the municipality when you tell them you go off the grid insist on
      inspecting the installation and want to know the value?

  • Denise Smit says:

    Unfortunately the same applies to the Government which forces unaffordable salary increases onto Provincial Administrations making quality health services an impossibility because the salary increases leads to less staff to be employed and less money available for non-salary requirements. As Premier Winde of the DA points out. The ANC encourages the salary increases of all tiers of government to win voters for next years election no matter the cost on service delivery to the detriment of it. Denise Smit

  • A.K.A. Fred says:

    Mmmmm… I think Wayne is being too polite. We all know what lead to the situation we are in with government in general and not just municipalities. Years of employment of wholy unsuitable people, in positions they do not have the capacity or skills to manage, has lead to the destruction of service delivery mechanisms and systems. This is an ANC trait. Call it like it is – There will be no change unless the dead wood is purged from the system and replaced with capable individuals. Citizens get what they vote for.

  • Scott Gordon says:

    2015 , my rates before tax R1078 .
    Now R 2556 Utilities almost double .
    The munis have been a mess for decades , will only get worse !
    Those that can will get solar , small and large .
    The electricity cash cow is on a diet !
    The fairly ‘ high ups ‘ have a very good idea of the problems .
    Lots of talk , discussions , follow ups etc , yet nothing concrete !
    Not my fault I hear stuff and talk to people !
    There are many good folk in the civil service ‘ cadre deployment ‘ ‘BEE ‘ apart 🙂
    Who can you look up to ?
    Mandela is long gone !
    And so must the ANC , will take time . 2024 is a wake up call .
    Maybe we get a 1994 % turnout !
    Would like the ANC to be the opposition to the country they raped and pillaged !
    If they do scrape in , more years in the toilet . What the voters want .
    Might look at getting my vote back , only had that one in 94 , taken away in 96 , am I alone ?
    Have legal minds to tap , what is feasible / possible .
    Justice for the big payers ? So how much to get a case heard , will work my way up the food chain .
    Would respectively ask the local High Court to review those judgements . And canvas others . Facebook etc ? Been here since 72 , want your vote back ?
    I know , you cannot f..t against thunder , until you do ! Yoda says do , not try !
    How many die hards like me are left ?
    The past is gone , today , just a flash , tomorrow just started .
    1984 maybe closer set book at school 1968 .
    How life unfolds .

    • Clare Rothwell says:

      My rates have also doubled since 2015. I live in the semi-rural Eastern Cape. Municipal water is often not an option. I rarely use it when it is.

  • Ben Harper says:

    Another older factoid, I used to follow Mike Schussler closely and he really knew his stuff, I used a number of his stats and facts in presentations I did. Back in 2009, Mike showed that there were more people employed by the state (either formally or through SOE’s) than there were in the private sector. And we wonder why our economy is so messed up

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