‘Let us pay our rates’

2018-04-20 16:29
Residents Tim Lohrentz and Judy Scholtz stand next to a giant pothole at the entrance of Ridge Close. Residents say Msunduzi has neglected service delivery there for years.

Residents Tim Lohrentz and Judy Scholtz stand next to a giant pothole at the entrance of Ridge Close. Residents say Msunduzi has neglected service delivery there for years. (Nhlanhla Nkosi)

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“Please let us pay our rates.”

This is the plea from the residents in three roads in Hilton who say Msunduzi has not billed them for close to two years.

About 100 households have not paid a cent for rates since being absorbed by Msunduzi Municipality two years ago, despite the community essentially begging the municipality to bill them.

Three roads on the border of Hilton and Pietermaritzburg were absorbed under ward 1, Msunduzi, in 2016, ahead of the local government elections in August that year. This area previously fell under the uMngeni Municipality.

Affected roads include Joseph Chamberlain Road, Ridge Close and Highlands Road.

Residents said since that time they have made numerous requests for Msunduzi to bill them.

This year, they set up a subcommittee that sent several e-mails to City officials querying the rates issue.

But now residents could each face possibly paying tens of thousands of rands in back payments, with the City confirming they would be liable for this once they are officially on its valuation roll.

While Msunduzi this week could not say how much would be owed in total, calculations by The Witness based on the average rates residents paid uMngeni suggest Msunduzi may have let as much as R2 million slip through the cracks over time.

City spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha confirmed the affected properties would be on next month’s valuation roll.

She explained that the City was busy “creating accounts” for the properties and determining “the exact date that uMngeni stopped billing” those homes before they could add them to the valuation roll.

“The accounts for these properties could only be created once the verification of ownership details had been done at the deeds office.”

She could not say how much the properties should have paid in that time, saying that Msunduzi would be “in a better position to calculate how much should have been paid” next month, once the valuation roll is completed.

The community has also bemoaned a complete lack of service delivery in the area, and have made numerous requests for waste-collection and for the re-tarring of potholed roads.

A chain of e-mails from residents details how they have been battling for answers to the rates issue and to get some service delivery.

Sub-committee member Judy Scholtz said in an e-mail to City officials last week: “I telephoned the call centre in desperation to find out about our rates. The telephone number I was given has remained unanswered whatever time of the day I call.”

The letter also details a lack of action against “illegal dumping” on Dennis Shepstone Drive, and a lack of action in addressing some roads pitted with potholes, rendering them “impassable”.

She told The Witness this week: “A few of us have been taking the fight to the municipality which has not come on board. We are never billed, and no one ever questions why we aren’t paying our rates. There is even some indication that they didn’t know we were part of [Msunduzi], because after months of battling we got them to make a special plan to pick up our rubbish on a Saturday.”

The e-mails appear never to have been responded to.

DA caucus leader in Msunduzi, Sibongiseni Majola, accused Msunduzi of not conducting proper governance procedures when new demarcations were made between uMngeni and Msunduzi. He said there were indications for some time now that the City was not even aware the properties in question fell under Msunduzi.

Majola said the issue was brought up several times in council.

“We have asked the City several times: ‘are you billing your customers, and do you even know who your customers are?’ They just say ‘yes’.

“It’s a very disturbing situation. These residents want to pay but Msunduzi has no urgency to act. We’re losing revenue that we’re desperate for. This area is a huge, rate-paying base.”

Majola added that the residents should not be liable for any back payments.

Ward councillor Jabu Ngubo told The Witness that arrangements to get the residents paying had been in the pipeline for some time, and said she had met with affected residents.

She, however, could not say how much the City may have lost from unpaid rates over that time. She said she was in contact with the community about issues of service delivery.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  msunduzi municipality

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