Traditional leaders sound warning on new rates bill

The Coalition of Traditional Leaders of South Africa says it is opposed to the notion that property in traditional communities should be taxed by municipalities in the same way as property in urban areas.

The coalition — which represents, among others, the national and provincial houses of traditional leaders — warns that ignoring its views will have consequences that are ”too ghastly to contemplate”.

Briefing Parliament’s provincial and local government portfolio committee on Tuesday, coalition representative Mpiyezintombi Mzimela questioned whether it would be wise to ”bring a new oppressive system of municipal tax to the… masses living in traditional communities”.

The committee is holding public hearings on the draft Local Government: Property Rates Bill. The measure seeks to regulate the power of municipalities to impose rates on all properties.

According to a memorandum attached to the draft bill, property ”includes all land… as the whole of the territory of the Republic is covered by municipalities”.

Called on by members to explain his choice of words, Mzimela said by ”too ghastly to contemplate” he meant there would be dangerous consequences if the views of traditional leaders were ignored.

Prompted by committee chairman Yunus Carrim to further expand on this, he said imposition of rates on people in poor traditional rural communities could lead to people losing their properties.

They would not be in a position to pay the taxes, and would become unhappy.

”If the communities of this country become so unhappy, then it is also not easy to govern the people who are not happy. ”So it is a very serious consequence when the community is not happy about the policy of the government.

”So if you go ahead implementing these imposed policies, that is the danger we are contemplating.”

Mzimela said the coalition was opposed to the establishment of ”wall-to-wall” municipalities in South Africa. ”We are not saying the rural people should not be taxed, but our serious concern is that as early as 2000, we were saying the overnment wanted to tax the rural people.

”This was denied by President Thabo Mbeki, Deputy President Jacob Zuma and Provincial and Local Government Minister Sydney Mufamadi; everybody was denying this.

”Now you are coming with this property rates bill, and it is now evidently true that you are going to tax these people,” he said.

However, Carrim said there was nothing in the bill which said ”people in traditional authority areas must pay rates”.

”What it does say is that if a municipality wants to apply property rates to traditional authority areas and rural areas in general, it must do so.”

He said he doubted whether municipalities would apply such rates ”for a long time to come”.

Levying such rates would also not be possible before the Communal Land Rights Bill was finalised. The property rates bill also excluded properties valued at under

R15 000, and ”it’s hardly possible that the people in traditional rural areas would have property valued beyond R15 000”, Mzimela said.

  • Mufamadi told journalists last year that owners of property worth over R15 000 in the former homeland areas of South Africa were set to pay property tax in the future.

    He said the property rates bill took into account areas that were outside the jurisdiction of local government before 1994.

    ”The revenues that municipalities generate from the entire demarcated area will enable them to build and develop these localities, by undertaking local economic development initiatives and providing infrastructure as well as efficient service

    delivery,” he said at the time. – Sapa

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    Richard Davies
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