KZN MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) Sipho Hlomuka has expressed his concern about the growth in consumer debt in the province’s municipalities. 

The latest audited figures released by the Cogta indicate that the province’s municipalities saw an increase in consumer debt of R3.47-billion betweeb the 2018/2019 and 2019/2020 financial years: the debt grew from R23.8-billion to R27.2-billion during this period, which represents a 14.45% increase.  

The increase, according to Hlomuka, is partly due to economic conditions that have deteriorated as a result of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus which has seen households and businesses across the province struggling to pay for municipal services. 

Hlomuka believes that the increase in the consumer debt in municipalities places them in a precarious position as they have to continue to provide essential services, such as waste removal, water, electricity and sanitation, in an environment of reduced revenue. 

“We are concerned about the increase in consumer debt and, as a department, we are rolling out measures that are aimed at assisting municipalities in the recovery of debt owed by their consumers,” said Hlomuka.

These measures include: 

  • Supporting municipalities with the reduction in consumer debt through active citizen participation; 
  • Indigent support in reconciling registers with Operation Sukuma Sakhe and debtor’s data at selected municipalities; 
  • Reconciliation of municipal billing data with debtor’s data, indigent data and the valuation rolls; and 
  • Focussed support on government debt through engagement and facilitation in resolving disputes towards payment across government departments and municipalities.

Hlomuka has also commended municipalities that are proactively dealing with consumer debt by providing debt relief to consumers by getting them to commit to a payment plan with the affected municipality then writing off the interest.

Cogta has further identified the following municipalities for support, specifically, in consumer debt relief during the 2021/2022 financial year:

  • Newcastle, Jozini, Umdoni, Nkandla, Ubuhlebezwe, Alfred Duma, Endumeni, Abaqulusi, Umngeni and Mandeni.

This support will entail crafting a consumer debt recovery plan with the respective municipalities and support with the implementation and monitoring thereof.

 Issued by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs