Deputy Speaker, Deputy President, hon members, in the spirit of co- operative governance, the Minister for Co-operative Government and Traditional Affairs, Minister Lechesa Tsenoli, has asked me to speak in this debate. I do so gladly, and I do so in support of the Local Government Municipal Property Rates Amendment Bill.
Deputy Speaker, allow me to begin on a blue note, which might not have an immediately obvious connection with this Bill. Fifty years ago, in mid- 1964, Chris McGregor, Janni Jiyane, Mnikelo Moyakhe, Mongezi Feza, Harry Miller, Dudu Pukwana and Louis Moholo, some of the best jazz musicians that our soil has produced, left South Africa. They had performed as the Blue Notes. In exile, they reconstituted themselves as the Brotherhood of Breath.
One of the reasons why they left South Africa was the racial segregation and spatial injustice of apartheid that made it impossible for musicians of different race classifications to perform together. McGregor's wife, Maxine, described that South Africa in his biography, entitled Chris McGregor and the Brotherhood of Breath.
Because they were not allowed to live in white areas, the black and coloured people were dispossessed of homes that they might have owned for generations and systematically dumped with their few belongings on barren hill sites that were designated as homelands, like KwaNdebele, a 50-mile long shantytown that sprang up almost overnight in the veld, miles from anywhere.
The people who lived in those shacks were obliged to spend sometimes as much as eight hours a day on buses that wound around picking up passengers, costing the government more than R1 000 a head, per commuter, each year in subsidies.
This was the biggest single expense in the development of a home loan, just to work in Pretoria, a distance of 40 miles, leaving them perhaps with five hours in their homes out of 24 hours a day. This money might have been better employed in building homes.
There was no work in KwaNdebele; only a few elites were employed as officials and the rest of the inhabitants were forced to travel daily into South Africa to earn a living. This might have changed in law, but it will take many years and enormous amounts of money to undo the damage that was done during this time in habitation alone. It was when apartheid was building up to this most depressive era that Chris joined the street demonstrations against the closure of the universities to blacks and begun his efforts to put together a mixed race jazz group.
This painful history and the challenges that it poses to us today is captured by Mark Orkin in an introduction to Apartheid City in Transition, published in 1991, as we were embarking on negotiations that would lead to our first democratic elections in 1994, the adoption of our Constitution in 1996, and our system of democratic developmental local government in 2000.
The apartheid spatial system as it manifested itself within the urban system as a whole was premised on policies aimed at decentralising and deconcentrating employment at the micro level and dividing the city itself into racial residential areas at the micro level.
Until 1986, entry into the city itself was regulated by influx control which, as the dividing line between town and countryside, was secured by repressive, racially based legislation. This division was complemented by economic constraints that blocked access for the poor to spaces that were too costly for the migrating populations. Underpinning this racial and class-based exclusion was the regional integration of labour markets that undercut constitutional and racial boundaries.
The result has been a massive waste of resources, and the net spatially based redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich as a result of a divided tax base; constraints on small business development; limits on agglomeration in the inner cities; the subsidisation of transport; and, to counteract the cost of subsidies, deconcentration, decentralisation and the huge misuse and non-use of land.
Out of this has emerged the need for a city that maximises the use of its resources and ensures access to its services for the poor. Although legislatively this rationalisation is a necessary condition for building the compact city, the built environment is spatially fixed. How the compact city can be built in a way that simultaneously utilises the deconcentrated urban infrastructure that already exists will emerge as the main challenge.
Speaker, these are the challenges that the ANC government inherited from apartheid in 1994. Despite this legacy, in two decades we have achieved an unparalleled success in delivering basic services to the majority of South Africa's people. Democratic developmental local government has been at the forefront of this good story, and the assertion that local government is an unmitigated disaster area is a demonstrable falsehood.
However, we must debate this Bill in the context of the significant challenges that remain in realising the vision of democratic and developmental government outlined in our Constitution, and its role in the ongoing struggle for spatial justice implicit in that vision.
The Local Government Municipal Property Rates Act is central to the financial sustainability of South Africa's metropolitan and local municipalities and their ability to play a role in achieving this vision. It gives effect to the mandate that municipalities have to raise their own revenue by levying property tax or rates against property in the municipal area.
Property rates make up a large portion of the budgets if metropolitan local municipalites. The ability of municipalities to levy rates and value property efficiently and fairly is essential for good governance and service delivery at local level. Rates income is essential for municipalities to contribute to the social and economic development of the communities they serve. National Treasury's budget review points out that 73% of local government revenue is raised through tariffs and property rates.
Since the implementation of the Act in 2005, municipalities across the country have conducted general property valuations and developed rates policies. The legislation has been tested in practice and areas requiring refinement have been identified. The 2014 amendments are part of the ongoing process of refining policy and legislation to meet the dynamic needs of South Africa's municipalities.
The amendments to the Act aim to strengthen this important law, clarify its aspects and provide greater support and monitoring through provinces and national government for those municipalities that require it. The amending Bill and the recently promulgated regulations on the appointment and conditions of employment of senior managers promote good governance and the professionalisation of local government in line with the vision set out in our National Development Plan, NDP.
As this term of office draws to a close, these and other policy developments underscore the national government's ongoing efforts to support and strengthen local government. As President Zuma pointed out in this year's state of the nation address, national and provincial government must play a greater role in supporting local government.
The 2014 amendments do not represent fundamental changes to the law, but clarify some aspects of the legislation, strengthen governance and streamline aspects of application. And, most importantly, the Bill will improve levels of trust in the property rating system by strengthening national and provincial oversight, by simplifying complex aspects of the Act and by providing for property categorisation that is simple to understand, transparent, and easier to regulate.
The proposed amendments also seek to ensure that municipal rating is not undertaken in isolation to national interests in so far as the economic and developmental objectives of the country are concerned.
Deputy Speaker, we would like to thank the portfolio committee for the rigorous manner in which they have discharged the legislative mandate, and also thank the organised local government, various sectors and individuals who have made valuable proposals.
Together they have effected important improvements to the Bill, and we are confident that the Local Government Municipal Property Rates Amendment Act will make an important contribution to strengthening our system of democratic developmental local government, together moving South Africa forward. Thank you. [Applause.]