Some time ago the Finance Portfolio Committee had a workshop on rates and debt collection. Since the city requires 450 000 homes to overcome the existing backlog, this is made impossible as many locals are struggling to pay municipal services.
Politicians who make promises without understanding budgetary constraints are creating problems. A technique around limited funds is to increase costs on those who pay while writing off debt of those unable or unwilling to pay. The problem with this approach is that most people prefer not to pay.
Non-payment among the unskilled remains high even though 184 998 properties with valuations under R200 000 do not pay rates. In November 2012, more than R42 million was written-off by Council as bad debt. In December 2012 more than R 11 million, in January 2013 R22 million in February R32 million and in March 2013 a whopping R528 377 060 in bad debts was written off.
That migrants are employed by tenderers contracted to the City is problematic. Since the city cannot dictate who a tenderer employs, how are locals to find work? If this recruitment is a result of the work ethic of Capetonians then we have a problem. Business who favours migrant labour should consider the long term impact on demographics and so on. Unskilled migrants access free education and health care, with an ID document they are entitled to free housing courtesy of local ratepayers.
After the workshop a fellow Councillor mentioned that he hired a foreign nanny as his working wife, became frustrated with locals that arrive late for work. Although each case has merit, when locals cannot pay for services, the city will subsidise them by increasing tariffs on others who can pay.
With reduced income and write-offs, the city is unable to build houses, setting the scene for shack camps and future land invasions. Already the 10 055 councillors in South Africa want government to provide insurance to cover them and their properties against action from disgruntled communities.
According to recent media reports job loss hit 4.6 million, forcing the official unemployed statistic to 25.2%. Disregarding unskilled locals may have short term gain for business but in the long term, ratepayers will continue to accommodate them in any case. Advocating for the employ of locals need not be xenophobic, after all “charity does begin at home”.
Cllr Yagyah Adams
Cape Muslim Congress