Merafong Local Municipality adopts 2020/2021 budget with tariff, salary increases despite negative impact of Covid-19 pandemic

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is disappointed to note that the Merafong Local Municipality has gone ahead and adopted a budget for the 2020/2021 financial year.

The DA in Merafong has consistently called on Council to postpone all increases until the next financial year in order to provide some relief to residents while the economy recovers from the pandemic response.

The virtual Council meeting during which the budget was tabled was chaotic as speaking times were not permitted and it is questionable as to whether a quorum was met which renders the outcomes of this meeting invalid.

In addition, in spite of numerous written responses from residents opposing the budget, the municipality has also gone ahead with tariff increases even though it is lower than initially proposed and has also adopted the proposed salary increases for the new financial year.

This is extremely concerning as the municipality has an unfunded mandate and clearly does not care about the impact the Covid-19 pandemic is having on the residents of Merafong.

Now is not the time to milk residents for more money. It is a time to be responsive to the economic realities that face rural economies in Gauteng and listen to the plight of residents.

The adoption of this budget comes as the Auditor General, Kimi Makwetu released the annual municipal audit findings which indicates that irregular expenditure is up by R7 billion. This shows a shocking lack of accountability.

Merafong can take steps to get its house in order to curb illegal connections, water and electricity losses and focus on the basics of service delivery. By pushing for tariff increases that are unrealistic and unaffordable many more businesses will be forced to shut their doors, enabling a vicious death spiral for rural communities.

The DA will continue to put pressure on the MEC for COGTA, Lebogang Maile to ensure that Merafong Local Municipality gets it house in order. The ovid-19 pandemic cannot be used as an excuse to push through a budget that did not follow the proper processes.