Durban – IN just over a month, the coronavirus pandemic has killed 19 people in the eThekwini region and 660 people are currently fighting the virus.
These figures emerged on Thursday during a presentation by mayor Mxolisi Kaunda to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs where he outlined some of the problems the municipality faced and what was being done to solve them.
Opposition parties said the City was trying to play down how bad the situation was, and a close analysis of the situation was needed.
Kaunda said 181 people in the region had recovered from the virus from March 8 to May 10. He also announced that the economic impact of the virus and lockdown had cost the City R1.5 billion in lost revenue until the end of April, and unfunded expenditure totalled R565 million.
City Treasurer Krish Kumar said revenue collection had been down in the city by 40% for April. He said the City was in a precarious state with regard to collections and warned the municipality would be hard-pressed to meet all its obligations to provide essential services.
Kumar said although they knew the government’s precarious financial position, they were still asking it for grants because it was difficult to access markets for money.
DA portfolio committee member Haniff Hoosen asked why the municipality was increasing its employees’ salaries and giving them bonuses in the current economic situation.
Kaunda responded that labour laws needed to be factored in and followed. He said that as Transport MEC he had tried to cut staff bonuses because the department was receiving qualified audit opinions from the auditor-general. He was taken to court where he lost the case.
DA caucus leader Nicole Graham said eThekwini “had the problem” of not spending its money wisely. She said employees and trade unions needed to realise how dire the situation was and that no one would be paid if the City ran out of money. She said municipalities not doing well would try to downplay the situation.
IFP councillor Mdu Nkosi said Kaunda should revise the bargaining council agreement from three years ago to address the salaries and bonuses issue.
He said tariff increases were another problem as the proposed increases meant people would not be able to afford to pay for water and electricity.
“People are battling,” he said. “Tariff increases should be suspended for this period.”
By Mphathi Nxumalo