Haswell attacked over roll

2009-03-23 00:00

Msunduzi Deputy Mayor Mervin Dirks criticised municipal manager Rob Haswell and city real estate manager Blackie Zwart over the latest property valuation roll, which he described as a mess, at a packed meeting at the Northdale Civic Centre on Thursday night.

The buck stops with the municipal manager he said, "and the whole community knows how [the] municipal manager treated us in the past".

Dirks said he raised the matter of the valuation roll in a closed confidential meeting. He asked Haswell to ensure that he was keeping a careful watch on the new valuation process so they did not encounter the same problems as last year when the roll had to be scrapped. Clearly, this did not happen, he said.

"If officials are not doing their work, they must get out."

He told the crowd - which overflowed into the annexes and outside the hall - that this was an extremely difficult meeting for the councillors to attend.

He said Councillor Pops Chetty raised in an executive committee meeting all the issues raised at the gathering. "We are in total agreement with you," he added.

Dirks said that when the new council came into office in 2006, the consultants to do the valuation roll had already been appointed.

"When they brought the first roll, Councillor Chetty ripped it apart and we told them to go back and rectify it at no extra cost. This is when we were told by the officials that as politicians we could not interfere in the process.

"One year later they came back and we are faced with the same problems. When we raise these issues with those officials of ours, the media reports that there are divisions in the council," he added.

The meeting was called by ANC councillors in the northern suburbs. The chairman for the evening, Yusuf Bhamjee, asked those attending to speak, sparking an outpouring of complaints.

The most common was that the northern suburbs generally have higher valuations than more upmarket suburbs. Residents said they are surrounded by low-cost housing, informal settlements and industrial developments; property sizes are generally no larger than 465 m2 and the area has a high housing density.

Speakers said estate agents who sell in the area say they do not get the prices set down on the roll. Several spoke of discrepancies in their streets such as larger properties valued at less than smaller properties, or council houses being valued at over R400 000, the same as simplexes in upmarket suburbs.

Chetty urged the residents to fill in objection forms.

He assured the gathering that the council is determined to keep the rate randage very low so as not to burden ratepayers.

Bhamjee reminded the gathering that the date for objections has been extended until March 31. He said all the councillors' offices will be open during weekdays and on Saturdays and that there will be volunteers present to help residents fill in their objection forms.

The way forward: MP who helped draft new law offers suggestions

MP Yunus Carrim, who chaired the Local Government portfolio committee that drafted the New Municipal Property Rates Act, said the meeting never needed to have taken place. The aim of the act, he said, is not to burden ratepayers, but it is not being implemented properly by valuers and the officials. He offered several suggestions as a way forward. These included:

* The municipality can seek an exemption from the Local Government MEC from implementing the act in this financial year. This would be granted only in extreme circumstances, one of which could be if there was a large number of objection forms submitted.

* The council can check if the valuers have fulfilled their contract, and decline to pay them if this is not the case. However, he added, this can be decided only on the basis of objections. - WR.

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