Municipalities Must Increase Thresholds for Indigent Grants

Desiree van der Walt

DA Limpopo Leader

The most recent study by the Institute of Race Relations shows that of the 1 394 000 households surveyed in Limpopo, our province has the highest percentage of households still using paraffin or wood for cooking (50. 5%), second highest in households without access to piped water (16.4%), and third most highest number of household still using buckets or without toilets (8.8%).

Although there has been much improvement in the provision of basic amenities such water, electricity, sanitation in the past years, however the figures above show that a lot more still needs to be done.

One of the ways to improve access to these services is by means of Municipal Indigent Policies. However it appears that the ruling party in this province in various municipalities is setting the threshold for households who should qualify for Free Basic Service (FBS) from their municipalities to low thus excluding households who otherwise should be qualifying.

The Municipal Indigent Policies are meant to help indigent households earning below a specified threshold of income to access from their municipalities services such as free water, electricity and basic sanitation. The difficulty lies in defining which household is indigent. So depending on the threshold that is set, you can either exclude or include a large section of the community from this safety net.

The National Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs has given municipalities a discretion, depending on their coffers, to set required threshold for households to qualify. Thus for an example a municipality could set the threshold at R1300 per month per household, it means that every household which earns R1300 and less will qualify and everyone else above this threshold is disqualified.

Thus a DA run municipality in the Midvaal has set the threshold at R3200 per month per household, thus ensuring that a higher number of struggling households actually do qualify for FBS.

Contrast this to Lephalale where the threshold is R1500.00, effectively excluding all those households earning R1500.00 and above out. Say a household earns R2000. 00 a month, they will not qualify and you ask yourself: what is R2000.00 a month for a household of 5 or more to sustain itself.

Municipalities have an excuse of lack of funds as a justification for keeping the threshold to the minimum. However it is sometimes difficult to sustain this justification when municipal officials earn exorbitant salaries in the face of poverty faced by many people they should be serving.

We reported recently how a council resolution of Elias Motsoaledi Municipality approved the salary increment of 38% which was not budgeted for. The directors in this municipality were receiving R615 600.00 per annum and the council increased that to R850 000.00. The Municipal Manager and the Chief Financial Officer is now receiving R950 000.00 and R900 000.00 respectively. In this municipality the threshold to qualify for indigence is R1100 and this excludes a substantial number of households.

In another incidence, in Mookgopong funds meant for the Municipal Infrastructure Grant are being used to pay salaries.

The DA takes the social security rights in our Constitution very seriously and our representative in our municipalities across the province will be tabling motions to increase the threshold for the FBS in order that a number of households can benefit. This is better than paying high salaries for officials who do nothing.

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