De Jager fears diminishing rates base

Nico de Jager, the newest appointed MMC. He was appointed as the MMC for Environmental Infrastructure Services.

“If you fail at either Pikitup, Joburg Water or City Power, you fail as an investment.”

This is the view of the newest appointed MMC in the City of Johannesburg, Nico De Jager, former chairperson of the Transport Committee.

lmost three months after being appointed on 14 February, after the sudden firing of Anthony Still, De Jager was picked from the Democratic Alliance to lead the Environment and Infrastructure Services department.

De Jager believes his is a fundamental department addressing what many residents regard as the sole function of a municipality – service delivery.

“It has been very overwhelming and challenging. I have learned a lot since coming into office,” he told the Randburg Sun.

De Jager is now the political head of the department that oversees Pikitup, Joburg Water and City Power.

He says he regards the entities as intertwined, working together and in synergy.

But his greatest fears are the budgetary constraints, ageing infrastructure, human behaviour and declining revenue.

“People living in informal settlements have the same right to a clean environment as those who live in Sandton. But they do not, because of injustices,” De Jager said.

In order to equally deliver basic services, the City relies on cross-subsidising. The MMC said that a diminishing rates base poses a major threat to this.

“People want generators because they keep getting power cuts. This means they do not have to pay the City for power anymore. We lose revenue,” he said.

Therefore, the City needs to address its repair and maintenance issues. Combining cable theft, the City is facing a major threat to the upkeep of its infrastructure.

“For many years our repair and maintenance budget was inadequate. And there is some very competent staff in the entities. People who have done so much with so little funds. If there were more funds, they would have been able to solve all the problems,” he said.

De Jager argues that if people apply their minds in order to complete projects in the first three months with a limited budget, they would get enough revenue to continue with other projects that the budget did not allow.

The City’s main revenue streams come from property rates (18,4 per cent), water and sanitation (22 per cent) and electricity (32,5 per cent).

It plans to spend, under the new budget introduced by Mayor Herman Mashaba, 32,1 per cent of its revenue on bulk purchases like water and electricity and about R10 billion a year on addressing the R170 billion infrastructure backlog.

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Chantelle Fourie

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