City extends amnesty

2019-01-31 15:19

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The City has extended its amnesty campaign after receiving a measly 2 457 applications over the three months of the programme.

On Wednesday the manager for financial control Simphiwe Mchunu told council that the campaign did not yield the anticipated results due to challenges, which included failure to reach all the affected residents.

Some of the people living in far-flung areas were not even aware that such campaign existed until its last day on January 15.

There were only 119 applicants for amnesty for electricity meter tampering, 135 for water meter tampering and 2 203 for discounts on accounts.

Mchunu said some of the customers felt that the allocated time of three months was not enough as they only found out about the campaign in December. “This initiative must be publicised a little bit more than before where mayoral imbizos are run,” he said.

When the programme was launched in October, Mchunu said it was expected to benefit at least 25 000 residential and business customers.

The municipality also hoped to generate a revenue of approximately R100 million from the initiative.

The motivation behind the campaign was to reduce the outstanding debt, which has been sitting at more than R2 billion since last year, and to also address the problem of millions of rands lost through theft of water and electricity as well as unbilled customers.

Mchunu also expressed his disappointment that of the 2 457 applications received for the first stage of the process, only 281 customers had started with stage two.

Councillors were concerned that the municipality appeared not to have been well prepared for the initiative when it was launched as some members of the public struggled to get information about it in their wards.

There were also delays in sending confirmation text messages after the applications were lodged.

Council approved Mchunu’s recommendation for the programme to be extended until April 15 to give ratepayers more time to lodge their applications.

However, ACDP councillor Reinus Niemand said the campaign was nothing but a political ploy so he would not support it.

He said the poor should apply for indigent status so that they could get free basic services and the rest of the customers must pay their water and lights accounts, especially businesses.

“There’s been an amnesty and further amnesty will undermine the income and finances of this municipality,” said Niemand.

Meanwhile, the same council meeting nearly collapsed when the deputy mayor Thobani Zuma was accused of discriminating against DA councillor Glenn McArthur by calling him a lady.

The argument started when councillors were responding to Zuma’s monthly report.

McArthur tried to interject while Zuma was responding to comments by councillors. When the Speaker Jabu Ngubo called McArthur to order Zuma quipped: “Thank you for protecting me from le ntokazi (this lady)”.

The DA councillors came to McArthur’s defence, saying the comment was an insult.

They asked for Zuma to withdraw his comment but most of the ANC caucus said the opposition had misunderstood him.

“As members of this house every now and then we throw jokes at each, that’s allowed and acceptable but when we now discriminate against a person based on their sexual orientation, it’s a concern,” said DA councillor Bongumusa Nhlabathi.

Ngubo tried get the caucuses to calm down as they screamed over each other. When she appealed to council not to allow “minor issues” to divide them and to allow the matter to “die a natural death” the DA objected.

ANC’s Mtuza Mkhize said the governing party could never discriminate people based on sexuality as it had approved the law which allowed same-sex couples to legally marry in SA.

Zuma was adamant that his comment was directed to an African Independent Congress female councillor, Nomalady Dlela.

He eventually withdrew his comment when the DA called for investigation — which would have included getting an audio recording of Zuma’s comment.

Speaking to The Witness after the meeting McArthur said it was very disappointing that Zuma chose to use the words he did.

“I faced similar discrimination under the previous Nationalist regime. The African Nationalists are not dissimilar. ANC policy and the Constitution say one thing, but the actions of their councillors in trying to cover up for him, show that what they say and what they do is two separate things. Their policies and their actions speak volumes.”

He said he did not take it personally as he was comfortable with his sexuality and it was common knowledge.

“However, the principle remains that one would hope that political representatives would not call people derogatory names that relate to their race, gender, religion or sexual orientation. Equally so that the party and its representatives would not try and condone it,” said McArthur.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  msunduzi municipality

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