Volume 6, Issue 5, November 2004

Collecting Service Debts: Constitutional Court Speaks.

A recent judgment by the Constitutional Court confirms that the electricity and water charges owed to a municipality must be paid before a property can be transferred to an new owner. This is a major victory for municipalities in their effort to collecting outstanding service charges.

Municipal Debts Are Rising.

In a recent report to Parliament, the Auditor-General, Shauket Fakie questioned the ability of South African municipalities to continue operating as a going concern. He commented that municipalities mounting levels of uncollected debt relative to their income was a cause for concern. The total municipal debt countrywide is more than R32 Billion and it is getting worse each year because of non-payment.

The REDs Are Coming.

Regional Electricity Regulations (REDs) have been under discussion since the early 1990s and numerous debates have been held for and against them. At last the process seems to have been pushed beyond a point of no return with the announcement by the President Mbeki that the first RED will be operational by June 2005 and the last of the of the six by january 2007.

Salary Increases For Councillors.

Councillors may see an increase of 7% in their salaries, benefits and allowances. This was the recommendation to the President by the Independent Commission for the Remuneration of Public Office Bearers.

Single Public Service: Challenges Ahead

For many years, municipal councils have enjoyed the freedom to determine the recruitment, appointments, promotions, transfers and dismissals of their employees. This is in line with section 160 (1) (c) of the Constitution, which provides that a municipality may employ personnel that are necessary for the effective performance of its function.

Salga's New Constitution.

At its National Conference in September 2004, Salga adopted a new constitution that makes fundamental changes in how organised local government functions in South Africa.

From the Courts: Councillors and Contracts With Their Municipality.

In the case of Mpakathi v Kgotso Development and Others SCA, Case No. 334/03, the Court had to consider whether a property attached by a municipality may be sold in execution to a close corporation if one of the members of that close corporation is a municipal councillor.