Durban – “WELL off” residents living on Ingonyama Trust Land within the eThekwini Municipality’s boundaries are not going to escape paying municipal rates and services for much longer, if the municipality has its way.
City manager Sipho Nzuza said this week the city was in “talks” with the Ingonyama Trust to find a path that would allow them to bill these residents for rates and services. Nzuza said the city believed it was unfair that people who could afford to pay for services were not doing so.
In the past few years there had been a shift in property ownership where many people who had been living in city suburbs have settled in rural areas.
They have built sprawling mansions in areas like Mzinyathi and Adams Mission, where a piece of land could retail in the R25 000 to R50 000 range or more.
“We have seen people with these big houses, especially in the rural areas. This is unfair to the people that are paying. The city is still expected to provide services to these areas. We need to find a way to collect what is due,” Nzuza said.
The municipality declined to say how much it was owed, saying it could not disclose customers’ account details.
“People in Ingonyama Trust can only be charged when properties are subdivided and they hold individual titles. The value of those properties will then determine the rateable value.”
But the city holds the Ingonyama Trust liable for debt and discussions were under way with the Trust through the government to recoup outstanding rates.
Many municipalities across the province were going after residents living on Trust land, with some sending municipal bills directly to the Trust.
Jerome Ngwenya, Ingonyama Trust chairperson, said some “municipalities have even sent us invoices”.
“There is a committee that has been set up by CoGTA (Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs) to address the issue of rates and services, but we have not delved into the matter. It’s not just eThekwini Municipality, there are other municipalities that have raised the issue.”
Those who have built homes in the rural areas said life was cheaper there.
Induna Sphelele Nxumalo of Amaqadi Traditional Authority, who used to own a home in uMlazi, said the cost of living was dramatically lower.
“Even the electricity, we use prepaid meters and a R20 voucher can last for some time, although we have constant power outages,” he said.
Bonginkosi Msomi, another induna of the Amaqadi Tribal Authority, said many people relocated to Mzinyathi to escape paying rates. Msomi said the municipality should engage with the traditional authority and not do as they pleased.
Mdu Nkosi, IFP caucus leader in eThekwini, said the council had been discussing the matter.
“At the moment, the bill is just growing, no one is paying. We have said that the municipality needs to educate people.
“The municipality also needs to ensure that services are provided, as
there are areas where refuse is not collected and water and electricity supply is erratic,” he said.
DA caucus leader Nicole Graham said the council was owed R192 million, adding that negotiations had been going
on for ages, with no resolution in sight.
“It’s a sensitive matter, but if people are using municipal services, then they must pay for them like everybody else.”
CoGTA spokesperson Senzo Mzila said engagements were ongoing.