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The City of Joburg approved a debt rehabilitation programme for ratepayers who meet qualifying criteria. Here’s what you need to know.
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The City of Joburg recently approved a debt-rehabilitation programme for ratepayers which includes additional relief measures for those struggling through the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The process was put in motion back in June 2019, when Councillor Funzela Ngobeni explained that the debt rehabilitation programme would bring about a new approach to the increasing debtors in the City of Joburg
“Tough economic times call for an innovative approach to mounting municipal debt”.
As it stands today, the programme policy includes qualifying criteria that the joint income of the household “must not be more than R22 000 but also the property value must not be more than R1.5 million”.
MMC of Finance, Jolidee Matongo says the programme currently in its second phase, and the City is calling on those who meet the qualifying criteria to come forward.
“Those who qualify and owe the city over the period of 90 days once they qualify in terms of the criteria we write off immideately 50% of their debt.”
Matongo adds that residents who qualify “continue to pay the city the current consumption including property rates and taxes over a period of three years without fail”, the city will write off the other 50% of their debt.
Matongo could not, at the time of publishing, confirm exactly how much debt the city has accumulated as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic but estimates it to be in the region of R30 billion.
“We don’t have the figures off hand, but the debtor’s book of the City is sitting as we speak today at around R33 billion which comes over a period of time more than five years”.
Speaking to 702, Matongo said when the first phase of the debt-rehabilitation programme was introduced, the property value was capped at R600 000. Unfortunately, not many of the city’s residents applied during the first phase.
At the time residents called for the property value cap to be increased:
“The response to the programme was not so good and throughout public participation processes of the city, people raised the issue to say increase the property value cap, which is what we have done in the second phase of the programme”.
Matongo also adds that the city now has the capacity to enforce the programme. A panel of attorneys have been assigned to collect debt on the city’s behalf, and call centres have been established as well.
In addition, Matonga explains that the City is trying to lower its debtors’ book. Residents who meet the criteria now have until 31 July to apply.