Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) Minister, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma, has not dictated to the City of Johannesburg on what municipal rates rebate should be given to independent schools.
In a statement, the department said this could not have happened, as this is a prerogative reserved for Council.
Recent media reports purport that the City’s municipal property rates tariff increases emanate from a direct instruction by the Minister.
CoGTA spokesperson, Lungi Mtshali, said: “The Minster of CoGTA is not authorised to determine the… rate a municipality may levy on categories of rateable properties. The Minister has never interfered with the functions of the City of Johannesburg on what rebate, if any, it should give to independent schools, as this is a prerogative solely reserved for Council.”
Mtshali said the issue of setting rates is not based on the category of the property in question, but on the actual rate tariff a municipal council determines, and whether a municipality deems it appropriate to grant relief measures in terms of section 15 of the Municipal Property Rates Act.
“Section 8 of the Municipal Property Rates Act requires a municipality to determine a property category for purposes of levying rates. Section 8(2) lists mandatory property categories that a municipality must determine, provided such property category exists within the municipal jurisdiction.
“Such mandatory property categories include business and commercial properties, properties owned by an organ of State and used for public service purposes, and properties owned by public benefit organisations and used for specified public benefit activities,” he said.
Section 8(3) states that “in addition to the categories of rateable property determined in terms of subsection (2), a municipality may determine additional categories of rateable property, including vacant land: Provided that, with the exception of vacant land, the determination of such property categories does not circumvent the categories of rateable property that must be determined in terms of subsection (2).”
Mtshali said it is important to contextualise the fact that the City had seven years, since 2015, within which to ensure that its categories of rateable properties are in line with section 8 of the Act.
Section 14 (1) of the Municipal Property Rates Act states that “A rate is levied by a municipality by resolution passed by the municipal council with a supporting vote of a majority of its members.”
Section 14(2)(b) requires the municipal council resolution to “(iii) reflect the cent amount in the Rand rate for each category of property.”
Section 15(1) of the Municipal Property Rates Act states that “A municipality may in terms of criteria set out in its rates policy- (b) grant to a specific category of owners of properties, or to the owners of a specific category of properties, a rebate on or a reduction in the rates payable in respect of their properties.”
Reading sections 8, 14 and 15 of the Municipal Property Rates Act together makes it clear that the authority to set municipal property rates is not with the Minister of CoGTA but is with a municipal council.
Mtshali reiterated that the Minister does not set the municipal property rates tariffs nor does the Minister determine whether a specific category of owners of properties are worthy of being granted a rebate or reduction in the rates payable in respect of their properties.
“These powers are vested in the council of a municipality, and in this regard, the City of Johannesburg has, in its own right, determined that the schools in question do not fall within the category of ‘properties owned by public benefit organisations and used for specified public benefit activities’ must only be granted only 25% rebate,” he said.
Should the City have wanted other schools to pay rates similar to that of “properties owned by public benefit organisations and used for specified public benefit activities,” Mtshali said it should have granted them higher rebates, for example, 75% or higher to bring some equalisation.
Only the city, he said, can explain why it decided to grant a rebate of just 25%, resulting in schools that are not public benefit organisations facing higher municipal property rates increases.
He confirmed that Dlamini Zuma did receive an application from the City regarding a number of categories and sub-categories of rateable properties.
“The City had seven years within which to ensure that its categories of rateable properties are in line with section 8 of the Act,” Mtshali said.
In terms the Act, the Minister is authorised to approve the determination of sub-categories of rateable properties by municipalities provided these do not circumvent or undercut the categories of rateable properties that each municipality must determine.
“To that end, the Minister responded to the City on its proposed sub-categories of rateable properties,” he said.
‘Educational’ was included in the City’s submission because the City needed advice on how to categorise the properties therein.
Mtshali said the Minister informed the municipality to consider including the properties categorised as ‘educational’ in the public service purpose properties category. The category consists of preschools, primary and secondary schools, further education and training colleges. The City was also advised to categorise the institutions in the public benefit organisation (PBO) properties category.
“It is important to restate that the Minister did not give instructions to the City on the cent in the Rand rate that the City should levy on these properties, in keeping with the principles of the separation of powers,” said Mtshali.
Source: South African Government News Agency