Deputy President David Mabuza called on South Africans to adopt a new culture of paying for the services they receive – particularly debts owed to municipalities.
Mabuza revealed that government departments, its entities and ordinary citizens owe billions of rands to municipalities – and warned that this was negatively impacting the municipalities’ ability to continue rendering required services.
The aggregate municipal consumer debts stood at R165.5bn as of June 30, he told the National Council of Provinces on Wednesday.
Mabuza said that due to the escalating consumer debt, many of the affected municipalities have been struggling to meet their own payment obligations.
“Of particular concern is the municipal debt to Eskom. According to Eskom’s 2019 integrated report, the total municipal arrears debt has continued to escalate to unacceptably high levels, amounting to R19.9bn,” he said, adding that this represents 71.7% of total invoiced municipal debt (including interest).
Mabuza said the top 20 defaulting municipalities constitute 81% of total invoiced municipal arrears debt, with total arrears debt of more than R100m each.
“However, indications are [that] these figures have increased significantly over the past few months,” he said.
Furthermore, according to the department of co-operative governance and traditional affairs, over R9.7bn is owed by national and provincial government departments to municipalities. This remains a major challenge for municipalities to provide required basic services to the people.
“Part of the challenge that we must confront as a nation is a culture of non-payment, especially with regard to consumer debt,” he said.
Mabuza called on those South Africans who earn an income to play their part by paying for services they consume, to lessen the burden faced by municipalities.
“We must engender a culture of paying for services that have been rendered or services that have been consumed. It’s a good culture that we must teach ourselves: pay for services that you have consumed.”
It’s a good culture that we must teach ourselves: pay for services that you have consumed.”
Deputy President David Mabuza
He said he would take it upon himself to make sure that all government departments in the country honoured their debts – not only to municipalities but all unpaid invoices to other service providers.
“When I leave here, I am going to ensure that all government departments do comply. I am going to insist. I am going to write to each and every minister to do that. I am going to take it upon myself to help the president to ensure that those who are owing, they must pay. And if they don’t pay, they must explain to the president why they are not paying,” he said.
It’s a duty that I am prepared to do because that is stipulated in our law.”
Mabuza accused government departments and municipalities of procuring services from small businesses with money they don’t have. “They procure a service while they don’t have the money. They wait for a period of adjustments where they may find money to go pay. By that time, the small business is dead,” he said.
He also called on politicians who may have led consumer boycott campaigns in the past to now go back to communities and campaign for payment.
“It’s time to go back and say to our people: It’s time to pay now. The struggles are over because at that time we were fighting a system and wanted to pull down a system, so we encouraged everyone not to pay,” he said.
“So let’s stand up with the same vigour and in the same push and tell our people to pay.”