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Gauteng’s 2021/22 budget will not save sinking municipalities from going under

The disappointing 2021/22 budget announced by the Gauteng MEC for Finance, Nomantu Nkomo-Ralehoko, falls far short of addressing the burning issues currently faced by the province.

The MEC's failure to offer any solutions to the province's critical problems serves as clear proof that the government does not have the political will nor the ability to prevent the serious decline of municipalities.

Municipalities in Gauteng have been unable to perform their duties as regards budgets, infrastructure and economic development for a long time already.

They are relying more and more on financial aid from the National Treasury to pay the accounts of essential service providers, while water and power supply are frequently suspended due to non-payment, which leaves residents stranded without these services for days on end.

Although the MEC used her Budget Speech to explain in detail how the Covid-19 pandemic will be handled, she failed to explain how she will ensure that the province's municipalities execute their infrastructure-maintenance plans.

She also did not make any mention of a recovery plan to turn the municipalities that are technically bankrupt around.

The only conclusion that can be drawn from this is that the point of no return has been reached as the ANC's 'back-to-basics' turn-around plan does not make provision for saving bankrupt municipalities. It is no more than some fancy term to pull wool over taxpayers' eyes.

The budget of the Gauteng Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) that amounts to a mere R661 972 billion is hardly enough to save municipalities from going under and to pay off all their debt.

COGTA is constantly busy negotiating with large suppliers, like Eskom, Rand Water and Telkom, on behalf of municipalities in an attempt to reach payment agreements so that taxpayers are not left without services for an indeterminate period of time.

The FF Plus has warned the MEC for COGTA, Lebogang Maile, numerous times that nearly all the province's municipalities are on the verge of bankruptcy and that a turn-around strategy must urgently be implemented.

Municipalities' debt collection rates are totally inadequate, which is the biggest cause of the financial paralysis.

And now it appears that there are attempts to make up for these deficits by levying exorbitantly high municipal rates and taxes on the limited number of paying residents.

In the FF Plus's view, the ANC has reached breaking point and it simply no longer has the political capital to inspire or instil confidence in voters.

The MEC for Finance's watered-down speech failed to convince residents that everyone's interests will be looked after.

The FF Plus wants to emphasise its role as opposition party to bring representation where the ANC is stumbling forth blindly.

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