Send unaffordable metro budget back for revision

By Cllr Retief Odendaal, DA Metro Caucus Leader of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality:

Today we have asked the Mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay, Danny Jordaan, to take the amended budget back to allow for additional inputs in crafting a budget that addresses the needs of all our communities.

In spite of the renewed commitment to the northern areas, the allocation of a mere six percent of the budget to these areas, leads to only one possible conclusion, namely that this community is being radically discriminated against. The DA can never tolerate such discrimination in a fair society.

The slashing of maintenance expenditure to balance the budget is of very serious concern, particularly when we are losing 40% of our water to a value of R329 million annually. The current state of our crumbling city infrastructure requires more funding, not less. The infrastructure maintenance backlog in the metro currently stands in excess of R4 billion and there can be few residents who have not yet felt the consequences of this decline.

Strong economic growth can only happen on the back of sound infrastructure and we therefore appeal to the mayor to engage far more robustly with national government to solicit additional funding to address our infrastructure backlogs

The decision to push ahead with yet another crippling round of rates and tariff increases – 9,5% for property rates, 12,2% for electricity, 13% for water, 12% for sanitation and 11% for refuse removal, are again far in excess of inflation and not sustainable.

Many households, families and businesses will be pushed to the brink financially as a result of this. The city needs to become more innovative in breaking this cycle or suffer the consequences.

In a city with the highest unemployment rate of all metros in the country where nearly a third of all people do not have work, we cannot continue with business as usual. We cannot continue to gloss over an unemployment rate that dwarfs that of the Great Depression.

There remains no hard commitment in our opinion to implementing a tough collections policy to recoup the R1,6 billion in arrears owed to the metro. Let’s stop protecting an elite so that we can deliver to the poor.

The Democratic Alliance acknowledges the spirit in which the mayor presented the city budget in council today. We further note the commitment given to strengthening the institution, to renewed focus on our audit capacity in rooting out corrupt activities, to holding management to account for their performance and to the work done in creating a cash backed budget as is required by law.

Yet, because we have repeatedly heard similar commitments in the past, it is difficult not to be cynical. Ultimately the people have been made to suffer the consequences of mismanagement, political infighting and instability.