On Thursday, Nicole Graham, the DA leader in the eThekwini council, said the draft 2020/2021 budget – which would be tabled to the council by the end of May – saw a 9.5% increase in staff costs jumping from R11.6 billion in 2019/2020 to R12.7 billion in the next financial year.
“The DA has also reliably been informed that 13th cheques for staff remain in the budget to the tune of R600 million. This is in addition to a staff increase of 6.25% and performance bonuses,” she added.
Graham said the party had written to city treasurer Krish Kumar and Deputy Mayor Belinda Scott, who chairs the finance portfolio, “to ascertain exactly what these figures are and demand that they be removed”.
“As far as the DA can ascertain, all staff were paid their full salaries during the lockdown and no salary cuts have been implemented for the senior level staff or executive committee councillors.”
She added the salary cuts were a recommendation that seemed to have broad support at the executive committee level “but was simply never sanctioned”.
On 23 April, Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda said the management and political leadership of the municipality would be given various options of donating a portion of their salary into the City’s Covid-19 support fund on a voluntary basis.
“In the real world, beyond sheltered government employment, people are taking pay cuts and businesses and families are desperately trying to find ways to make ends meet.
“Very little relief has been offered by the eThekwini Municipality to those struggling and tariffs are set to again go up by exorbitant amounts,” said Graham.
She added the metro’s cash flow was in serious trouble, with a 55% collection rate for the last billing month.
“All projections indicate that the municipality is quickly running out of money and if the trend continues, will have very little cash left on hand within a few short months.”
Graham added: “It is thus simply unacceptable that staff costs in the municipality go up by more than a billion rand in the coming financial year and that municipal staff receive increases, 13th cheques and performance bonuses.”
Responding to the claims, municipal spokesperson Msawakhe Masiyela said the City was “pulling all the stops” to minimise costs associated with basic services that were provided.
“We will never derive any joy from having our residents paying a considerable amount of money for these services, yet we are in the grip of Covid-19.”
He said the City was responsible for “living up to its constitutional mandate of providing basic services unceasingly”.
“And it requires revenue for it to live up to that constitutional mandate. As we speak, we have set aside close to R70 million for social relief solely for the poor during this difficult period.
“Why would the City then be branded as uncaring? We are appealing to the opposition to refrain from using the plight of the country to score cheap political points.”
Masiyela said the issue of salary increments would be decided at the bargaining council.
“The City cannot take a unilateral decision to reverse the binding agreement in this regard. We have on numerous occasions stated that we will look at the comments on our proposed budget.”
He added: “We did not invite residents to comment on this proposed budget solely to tick boxes.”