COPE In Gauteng has decided to add its support to the growing opposition to the Democratic Alliance’s systematic recategorisation of agricultural properties to “Residential” to sidestep national policy that rates on agricultural properties should not exceed 25% of that charged on the value of residentially categorised properties in the area of the Tshwane Metro.
The recategorisations is an abuse of the provisions of the Municipal Property Rates Act that allows the municipality to allocate properties to different categories and impose different rates on the different categories. It was never intended to flout national policy.
The recategorisations have exposed residents to a sudden 400% increase in their rates, often accompanied by simultaneously imposed hefty increases of the valuations of their properties that resulted in further increases.
No affordability study has ever been commissioned by the City of Tshwane to first determine the financial implications of this policy for the affected residents. Such a study would have been the responsible precursor to a change in policy regarding ratings categories. There are more and more indications that these rates are unaffordable and the cause of unintended financial hardship accross the board to many residents.
The argument that very well-off people live in agricultural estates and can afford these hefty rates increases is fundamentally flawed because a property rate is a rate on property and is not some kind of Poll tax on the apparently wealthy. The municipality agreed to the nature of agricultural estates when it approved the developments as such and it knew the nature of the rates payable on such properties. It also knew that it would not have to render services and provide the amenities to these residents that it ordinarily provides to residents in ordinary township suburbs.
These changes leave the city with the best of all worlds. Because the properties remains zoned as agricultural, it is under no obligation to render the services it would be rendering in residential suburbs, while it receives rates from these residents as if they live in suburbs where these services are expected as a normal part of everyday life.
If the City had any intention to act fairly, it would have followed the fare more onerous – but at the same time, fairer — procedure to formally rezone such areas and to incorporate these areas in its standard programme of service delivery.
It is a difficult to ignore reality of South Africa that the poor, self-sustaining farmers and emergent farmers simply cannot afford these rich mans’ rates. As such it serves as a barrier to entry to the poor to attain access to rural and agricultural land and it serves to keep such land parcels in the hands of the rich.
The rating changes is an overreach of residents and not the product of good government.
As more and more evidence of the adverse consequences of these ratings changes come to the fore an empathic government should be willing to own up to its mistakes and move to correct them. The Congress of the People in Gauteng can no longer associate itself with these rating changes and will in future oppose it. END-
Gauteng Provincial Chairperson
+2781 563 1095
Gauteng Deputy Provincial Secretary
+2772 817 6560
The Congress of the People (COPE)