Re-igniting a culture of responsible citizenry and accountable leadership

Failure to pay for municipal services has negatively impacted municipalities, making it difficult to deliver basic services.

New electricity connections in Disa in Imizamo Yethu. Picture: EWN

Local government remains the logical point of coordination and a necessary vehicle for the implementation of government policies and programmes. The Constitution enjoins government to take reasonable measures, within its available resources, to ensure that all South Africans have access to adequate housing, health care, education, food, water and social security.

Most local government revenue is generated by trading these services (electricity, water and sanitation) which in aggregate accounts for 60% and property rates for 20% of local government revenue. As such, consumers of municipal services, except for indigents, should pay the full costs of services consumed. This is vital for the long-term financial viability of any municipality.

Regrettably, some households, organizations, businesses and even government spheres have failed to pay for municipal services they have received. The cumulative municipal consumer debt was R181.3 billion in March 2020 which is a slight decrease of R200 million from December 2019.

The failure to pay for municipal services has contributed negatively to the financial stability of municipalities, as a result thereof, making it difficult for municipalities to deliver basic services. The situation was further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic which exacerbated the financial challenges of our municipalities and communities alike.

We call upon all responsible citizens to pay for their municipal services. Central to responsible citizenry is citizen activism, expressed through active participation and holding leaders to account by employing mechanisms, such as Ward Committees and public participation programmes.

It is thus, imperative for us as communities to balance our rights to receive services with the incumbent responsibilities to pay for services consumed. Consumers of municipal services should as far as practically possible, pay in proportion to the amount of service consumed.