Muni amends 2017/18 budget

POLOKWANE – The local council’s adoption of an amended budget this week was done in an effort to save costs, and not because legal processes were underway against the municipality, according to the Mayor, Thembi Nkadimeng.

According to the initial budget, landlords would have had to pay thrice the current rates and taxes on their rental properties come 1 July, among other increases.

An amended version of the 2017/18 budget of the Polokwane Municipality was finally adopted at a special council meeting held at the Council Chambers on Tuesday.

Read more: Polokwane municipality denies DA allegations that draft muni budget wasn’t adopted

A meeting was held subsequent to the council meeting from which the DA abstained because it was not an open meeting. The budget was subsequently adopted at a council meeting on 29 May.

The DA requested a formal division and eight councillors voted in favour of the budget and eight against. The Speaker then allowed an unlawful and irregular second voting procedure wherein 40 councillors voted in favour of the budget, eight DA councillors voted against and 19 councillors abstained from voting. Altogether 74 councillors out of 90 councillors attended the council meeting.

“It is a victory for democracy,” Nkadimeng this week said, adding that it was not a court order that compelled them to withdraw the initial budget.

“The municipality pre-empted that and opted for a special council meeting,” she said, adding that the “mistake” was made by both the ANC and DA councillors who failed to realise the shortfall in councillor numbers.

A letter from the DA’s attorneys dated 20 June was delivered to the Speaker, the Mayor, the Corporate Services Director and the MEC for Cooperative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs.

Dikgape Makobe, Polokwane Municipal Manager.

It stated the DA’s intention to approach the High Court to obtain a court order declaring the municipality’s adoption of the budget as unlawful, as it failed to obtain the required number of votes as required by the Constitution.

The DA’s attorneys specifically quoted a judgement from the Constitutional Court, wherein the quorum and voting requirements on a budget was fully canvassed and explained. The DA, and DA Councillor Franco Marx, filed and served an urgent application in the Polokwane High Court on 22 June.

Only after the application was filed, did the municipality concede that the DA was correct in their interpretation and undertook to reconsider the budget at a Special Council Meeting on 27 June.

In a letter from the municipality’s attorneys to the DA, it was stated that the municipality does not intend to oppose the matter “in an effort to save costs”.

At the Special Council Meeting, Marx, on behalf of the DA, raised numerous discrepancies between the draft tariffs and those that were presented for adoption. These discrepancies would have had a major financial impact on residential property owners.

Among others, the municipality requested for a category according to which property owners who rent out residential properties would pay three times the normal rate.

Furthermore, although an increase of only 8,5% was tabled, while the municipality had an increase of 143% on the rates payable on “vacant land” and 770% on “farming for other purposes”.

After deliberations of approximately an hour, the council agreed to the amendments suggested by the DA.

The municipality subsequently resolved to rescind the previous budget that was published in the Provincial Gazette, as well as the public notices.

The final budget vote was unanimous, with all parties supporting the amended budget.

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Nelie Erasmus

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