- The City of Johannesburg has avoided being put under administration, after successfully passing its mid-term budget.
- 228 councillors supported the R68.1-billion budget, while 29 members of the EFF refused to support the recommended adjustments put forward by Finance MMC Jolidee Matongo.
- The City says it will also be distributing 500 000 food parcels for families in the region who are in distress and food insecure.
The City of Johannesburg has met this week’s deadline set by the Gauteng government to pass its 2020/2021 budget.
Failure to do so would have seen it facing challenges similar to Tshwane, which has been embroiled in court battles since being placed under administration by Premier David Makhura in February.
Finance MMC Jolidee Matongo tabled a R68.1-billion budget before 257 councillors, some of who participated in the virtual sitting remotely.
While it took almost three hours for the roll call to be conducted, most parties in the council, even with reservations, supported the mid-term budget.
The EFF is the only party which did not support recommendations for both the operating budget and the capital budget.
While the DA also supported the budget, it said it could not support two recommended items on property rates and the analysis of the inputs received on the public participation process, which were part of the day’s agenda, until Matongo responded to some its concerns.
A total of 228 councillors supported the budget, 227 also agreed to recommendations on property rates, while 29 were against all proposals put forward.
Property tariffs to be reduced
The Gauteng executive had sought to intervene after two postponed sittings saw the City missing its 1 July deadline to pass the budget.
Matongo said the budget prioritised tariff relief and rebates for pensioners, as the City - much like the rest of the world - battled against the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
"As the economic hub of the country, our tall order has been to urgently explore ways in which we can offer relief to the people of Johannesburg. The tariffs contained in the budget demonstrate our commitment to inclusivity and accountability to the residents of Johannesburg," said Matongo.
He said property rate tariffs would be reduced from the proposed 4.9% increase to 4%, water tariffs would also be dropped from the planned 8.6% to 6.6%, and electricity would be reduced from 8.10% to 6.23%.
The finance MMC said City Power had been allocated a three-year capital budget of R2.6 billon, which would fund the provision of public lighting and the electrification of informal settlements, which also includes R100 million for the electrification of mega-projects in the city.
"A total of R1.2 billion has been allocated for the formalisation of informal settlements over the medium term," Matongo said.
Matongo said the budget was attempting to balance the needs of residents, as well as negotiate the tough economic period, adding that the City was urgently looking at measures to bring relief to residents.
"Up to 500 000 food parcels and vouchers are to be distributed to vulnerable households amidst indications that more than a million households in Johannesburg are food insecure," he said.
Matongo briefly touched on the City’s vision to bolster efforts to stimulate the country’s economy and create more opportunities for young people, with R50 million being set aside as seed funding for youth development, which he said would work in partnership with provincial and national government, as well as the private sector.
He also said plans in the budget included upgrading the Central and the Protea Glen fire stations in the new financial year, spending R200 million on new fire engines, and the Joburg 10 plus programme, which envisions a minimum of 10 police officers per ward across the city.
He also said the budget provided for the construction and completion of clinics in Florida, Naledi, Bophelong, Turffontein, Zandspruit, the Orchards Clinic and the Alexandra Hospice.
The budget would also focus on the elderly in Johannesburg, and Motongo announced that a pensioner income-qualifying criterion for tariff relief interventions had increased by 6%.
"This means a pensioner with a property value of below R2.5 million, and an income of below R10 338 for the lower limit or below R17 719 for the upper limit, will receive a 100% rebate on their rates," he explained.
"This effectively means an increased number of pensioners will now qualify for the City’s rebates.".
The EFF voiced its disapproval of the recommendations to the budget by the ANC - which is control of the hung municipality with the help of coalition parties - claiming this was a plot to also place it under the full control of an ANC provincial government, like Tshwane.
Some of the party's councillors said the targets set out in the budget were unreliable and unrealistic.