Good and bad

2009-04-02 00:00

The Msunduzi Council has approved a draft budget which is likely to please residents and businesses alike. There are inevitable increases, the biggest being the electricity tariff but this is dictated by Eskom. Eskom’s increase of 25% nationally is to be softened by the municipality’s decision to absorb part of the cost: three percent for residents and five percents for industry. Here is an attempt to cushion the effects of the current downturn in the economy as a whole.

Water is to cost five percent more, while sewage and refuse removal will go up by seven percent, both below the current inflation rate. There has been a certain amount of alarm about the implementation of the new Property Rates Act. The details are not yet available because objections to the latest property valuations are still being processed, but it has been agreed to put a ceiling of R400 million on the rates yield, this being only a 7,5% increase on the previous year.

The budget has been put before the public for comment on the eve of the April 22 general election. It can therefore be justifiably described as an election-friendly budget. Nevertheless, credit should be given for the realism and common sense it contains in difficult economic times.

Into this welcome setting of good governance comes the unsettling news of yet another “blue light” convoy incident on the N3, this time involving bodyguards of the Msunduzi mayor, Zanele Hlatswayo. A motorist who dutifully changed lanes when she was free to do so in heavy traffic was forcibly stopped and subjected to verbal abuse and being spat in the eye by one of the bodyguards. The woman concerned has been put on to antiretrovirals, at her doctor’s advice, as a result of this incident.

It is high time that this swaggering abuse of power be brought to an end by those, including the mayor of Msunduzi, who have the authority to insist on it. The municipality’s draft budget shows a commendable respect for people and their dignity in testing times. Intemperate bullying by VIP bodyguards shows none.

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