Interview: Alderman Marion Nieuwoudt, City of Cape Town

by Oct 25, 2010All Articles

Special Ratings Areas (SRAs) are areas in which residents pay extra rates for organizing extra services. If initiators get majority support from 50+1% of the rate paying property owners, all must pay. The rates are collected by the municipality and then paid back to the SRA. An AIDC research project is uncovering a system which reinforces the apartheid divides between communities. Amandla! asked Democratic Alliance member in the City of Cape Town Mayoral Committee for Planning and Environment, Alderman Marian Nieuwoudt, on the city’s SRA policy. We encourage our readers to read Nieuwoudt’s written answers to the questions closely and compare them with the other articles in Amandla! 

The official policy of the City requires from those who apply to establish and SRA that their business plan ‘must contain an explanation of why the proposed SRA will not reinforce existing inequities in the development of the City’. This echoes the wordings in section 21 of the 2004 Municipal Property Rates Act. Why does the City accept all the SRA business plans that do not contain such an explanation?

The SRA policy provide a framework for communities to partner with City to enhance the level of services over and above what the City can afford to render. In applying to declare a SRA a business plan needs to be submitted whereby the need for a SRA is motivated. The legal framework also provides a mechanism to facilitate an appeal when a ratepayer can not afford the SRA levy, but the SRA must render the enhanced service to all in the proclaimed SRA area. The DA multi-party government governs on the principles of an open opportunity society. Though SRA’s communities are supported to take responsibility for their own environment. By doing it, it enable the Council to render a minimum service across the City.

Doesn’t the levying of an extra percentage of rates in a SRA stand in conflict with the principle “One City, One Tax Base”?

No the tax base for the City stays the same – based on market value.  The decision on a SRA is initiated by the community.

Weighted voting rights in accordance with wealth were used in Europe [and in Cape Town] in the 1800’s. In the SRAs the votes are weighted after the value of your property. The more property you own, the more votes you have to influence a SRA. How does the DA-led local government council argue for not upholding the principle One Person, One Vote in the case of SRAs?

The SRA is a mechanism provided to the community to manage their property/s in partnership with the City.  If a person own more than one property, my understanding is that each “property” will have to pay the levy. I therefore do not have a problem with the principle. The same principle applies at homeowners associations.

How does the DA answer those property owning households who have come out in Cape Town saying that they can’t afford the extra rates, which are affordable to richer households?

The SRA by-law does allow individuals to seek remedy through an appeal mechanism.

In over 70 other municipalities, rates payers have protested against what they think are poor services by sending their rates payments to trust accounts. Do you think that the active SRA-policy in Cape Town is the reason why this has not occurred there?

I do think that SRAs allow property owners to share responsibility in managing their environment.  We do not have a multiple-city at SRA to influence service delivery to such an extent.  Cape Town administration is successful in delivering basic services. Our Councillors are communicating the needs at the community and play an active part in setting the priorities of the City.  We also have a system of Ward allocation, which ensure that rates are spent in each ward.  The subcouncil system, with appropriate delegations, ensures that local government is accountable at local level.

The private security industry is growing by 20 to 30 thousand “registered active security officers” every year. Do you think there is a link in the growth in private security, and the large scale inequality and poverty?

As a qualified social worker, I have experienced first hand and know from research that there is a link between increased poverty and specific criminal behaviour.  I believe that crime in SA is a complex matter and has much to do with moral decay, loss of social and family support, lack of life skill education than any other factor.

The growth in private security happens because of government not being able to create a safe environment for South Africa’s communities. The private security sector exists for the same reason than private schools and/or hospitals. Government is not able to provide the services needed and thus the citizens are forced to provide it by themselves.

Together, owners of agricultural property around Cape Town enjoy a rates rebate of 89% on their standard property rate, which amounts to R123 million before rebates. The rebate on rates on all residential property sums up to 23%. What is the reason for this large rate rebate given to land owners?

The City has a planning framework with the guide urbanisation and protects agricultural land. I would believe that this principle is embedded in other policies as well. In general the City also does not render the full menu of basic services to agricultural properties. The protection of agricultural land and fostering agricultural activities in the City are key to our sustainability.

Couldn’t the City intervene with lower rebates for agricultural property and use this extra revenue to improve the deplorable conditions endured by many farm workers?

Local government does have a specific mandate which is funded by property rates. The citizens of South Africa are paying tax to our national government who needs to deliver on their responsibilities. Social support and development are mainly the responsibility of National and Provincial Government.

Are there examples where revenue earned on SRA rates have been channelled into infrastructural development of poorer parts of Cape Town?

Revenue earned on SRA rates are spend by the operational structure set-up by the communities. Council plays a monitoring roll.  The revenue is not meant for cross subsidising.

Currently SRAs are more often than not situated in wealthy areas and are able to buy better services, while poorer areas still suffer from inadequate services. In order to ensure equal service delivery to all, can the city not regulate SRAs to include poorer areas within their boundaries?

Establishing a SRA is the initiative of a community, often facilitated by the Councillor. We do regulate SRA through the specific by-law and SRA’s are accountable to their communities and council. There is nothing excluding poorer areas/communities to take similar action. I am also aware that SRA’s do assist each other to share lessons learned and jointly address mutual challenges.  The focus and aim is the opportunity for communities to take ownership and responsibility for their social and physical environment. We need to move beyond dependency to responsibility.

Read the related Amandla! articles “Cape Town – The Mother City of Inequality” and “Lacking Resources?

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