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​City urged to simplify rates policy

Soweto residents have called on the City of Johannesburg to explain the property rates policy in its simplest form so they could comment on it from an informed position.

The appeal was made at a Property Rates Policy Review meeting at the Orlando Communal Hall in Orlando East, Soweto, at the weekend.

The residents – mostly from townships such as Orlando East, Orlando West, Diepkloof, Dube, Mofolo and Dobsonville – said they were in the dark about how the valuation of their properties worked and were confused about the Property Pates Policy Review itself.

Sophie Khaladi of Diepkloof said the majority of township residents did not understand the policy and criteria being used to determine the value of their properties. Khaladi said in as much as she had a clue of the process, many residents had no idea what the policy review was all about. She said the evaluation was not clarified and put in simple words.

Judith Twala of Orlando East voiced her concern about freehold rights being given to the elderly but who were then left to their own devices to maintain their homes. Twala also said she was worried about land that had remained vacant for a number of years without being utilised. Florence Malinga of Orlando West criticised managers and staff at municipal customer service centres for being rude and unhelpful.

In response, City of Joburg Rates Policy Specialist Phumza Jack explained that the valuation of property was done through a system that took many factors, such as proximity to a clinic, school, transport facilities and shopping malls, into account. She said after the valuation, the homeowner had the right to lodge an objection if he or she was not satisfied.

Jack asked churches and non-governmental organisations to apply for rebates to avoid being charged the same rates as businesses. She urged residents to come forward and relate their problems and concerns. “If you have something to say tell us. Let’s hear your concerns. Ziveze (Show yourself). Go to your local municipal office or customer service centre and apply for a rebate if you are 60 or above.”

The consultative process will culminate in the 2016 City Budget speech to be delivered by the Member of the Mayoral Committee Councillor Geoffrey Makhubo. The public process takes place in two rounds. During the first round of public consultation, residents and ratepayers are informed about the existing rates and then invited to provide feedback and comment.

Residents have also been advised to voice their comments on the current policy easily available at the City’s website; or on request at a Customers Service Centre city-wide. Submissions can also be made until February 27 2015 via email to Rates Comment