Premier urged to intervene in Mooi River rates

2008-07-15 00:00

With several businesses planning to close down in Mooi River following the municipality’s refusal to lower the rates randage on commercial properties, residents have taken their fight to the KZN provincial government, calling on Premier Sibusiso Ndebele to intervene.

The Ladysmith Ratepayers’ Association is also planning to go this route, saying it had failed to get their municipality to heed concerns over a flawed valuation roll and high rate randage.

The Mpofana Municipality is charging a rates randage of 3,5 cents on commercial properties — one of the highest randage increases in the country.

A hotel in the town which has been paying R1 900 per month will be faced with a monthly rates bill of about R6 600. The hotel does not get enough paying guests to be able to cover this rates bill as well as overhead costs, and is planning to close.

Similarly, one of the largest supermarkets in the town is considering closing down and cutting its losses.

Not only are businesses affected, but residents in Rosetta face rates increases of between 50 to 60%.

Ratepayer organisations in the town have banded together under the Mpofana rates action committee (MRAC) and have engaged the services of a legal firm.

They have called on the provincial executive to intervene in terms of Section 139 of the Constitution and to direct the Mpofana Municipality to suspend the implementation of the 2008/09 budget adopted on May 30.

The gist of their complaint is that the alleged lack of community consultation when the 2008/09 budget was being formulated resulted in a budget that is unrealistic, with rates increases that will adversely affect several communities.

Mpofana, like Ladysmith implemented the new Property Rates Act this year.

The MRAC is made up of the ratepayers’ associations from Mooi River and Rosetta as well as the farmers’ associations of Kamberg and Mooi River and the business community of Mpofana.

They allege that the municipality did not make public copies of the draft budget to allow sufficient interaction with the process.

A spokesman for the premier’s office, Logan Maistry, confirmed receipt of the letter and said it had been sent to the relevant ministry for attention, in this case the Local Government Department.

Local Government minister Mike Mabuyakhulu’s spokesman, Lennox Mabaso, said they were in the process of getting all sides of the story.

He reminded municipalities of the need to consult with communities. “As the minister [Mabuyakhulu] has said, we don’t want to kill the goose that lays the golden egg,” he added.

Mpofana municipal manager, Muzi Madlala, said that they had been contacted by the department seeking explanations to issues raised.

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