Sept 2006



The Auditor General's office is sitting with a huge headache. Municipalities throughout the country are owed R19,2 billion by residents. But a local municipality in the Western Cape has come up with a simple plan to collect its outstanding debts. The plan can be copied by other districts. The Overstrand Local Municipality has a win-win solution where defaulters can work, pay their debts and still put money in their pockets.

Skills are improved
Overstrand is about 120 kilometres from Cape Town. The municipality gives jobs to people who cannot pay their rates. Part of the money they earn is used to pay their outstanding accounts.

Overstrand's local economic development manager, Kobus Arendse, told Vuk'uzenzele that the project was an important way of showing the municipality's willingness to reach out to the community. He said the project does not only help the municipality to recover debt. It also reduces poverty and helps people to develop skills.

How it was done
People who owe money, but cannot work because they are disabled, sick or old, are not excluded from the project. The municipality helps them by allowing unemployed young people to represent them by working on their behalf. The pilot project was started last year in Zwelihle Township.

It gave jobs to 18 people who owed the municipality about R100 300 in unpaid rates and services. At the end of the project, the municipality recovered R91 796. Arendse said they were happy with the amount of money the municipality collected. "We paid the workers 60 per cent of the money they worked for."

The second project in the region was at Hawston Township, where a clubhouse was built using the same salary system. A third project, also using the residents as the work force, involved putting up street lights in Sandbaai.

Others could follow
Arendse believes other municipalities should follow Overstrand's example to improve the conditions of people in their own communities. He said the projects would also save municipalities the time and trouble of advertising and appointing people or companies to provide certain services that their own residents are capable of doing.

- Justice Mohale

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