Hon Speaker, hon members, the Local Government: Municipal Property Rates Amendment Bill, which I will hereafter refer to as the Rates Bill, is expected to regulate the power of a municipality to impose rates on property and tie up all the loose ends started on 2 July 2005, when just four municipalities began valuing and rating properties in terms of the 2004 Act, which was amended through the Local Government Laws Amendment Act of 2008.
It is essential that local government exercises its power to impose rates within a statutory framework that not only enhances certainty, uniformity and simplicity across the nation, but also takes into account historical imbalances and the rates burden of the poor. The Constitution of the Republic of South Africa confers on Parliament the power to regulate the exercise by municipalities of their fiscal powers.
What, however, remains unfinished business in the Act is the fact that, amongst others, clause 6, which substitutes section 8 of the Act, limits the basis for the categorisation of properties to use and permitted use only. This clause also provides for a municipality, on good cause shown, to apply to the Minister to subcategorise property categories.
Hon Minister, it is no secret that informal settlements are going to be a part of the national property framework for a long time to come. With the pace of housing development we have seen with this government up to now, it means that there is a lot of land unused, unaccounted for and that remaining untaxed in terms of the rates system as envisaged by this Bill. The Congress of the People would like to know how this Bill will eventually deal with this phenomena and further empower municipalities to bring in the very large parts of the towns and the cities with informal settlements where services are needed most - and are provided for one way or the other - but continue to remain out of the categorisation process or the rates matrix, as would be expected and, at the same time, as envisaged by clause 6.
Clause 13 speaks to the exclusion from rates of mining rights or mining permits, excluding infrastructure above the surface in respect of mining property. A number of mining houses use high volumes of water and electricity, such that the variations as intended in the Bill would need serious scrutiny going forward. The same clause also recognises land belonging to beneficiaries and heirs, their dependants and/or spouses, and includes a 10-year temporary exclusion from the payment of rates before the exemption lapses.
Cope would like to raise the issue of body corporates as separate entities that present a certain exclusivity, which is highlighted in clause 16 and clause 21 in respect of sectional title schemes and share blocks. These bodies have been a law unto themselves for a long time, and in certain instances have remained unaccountable to any regulatory body, including the Estate Agency Affairs Board, where one would have hoped there would be a certain degree of monitoring or accountability. This Bill requires them to give municipal valuers access to their documents, property and information required for the purpose of valuing the property.
Finally, Cope finds the Bill favourable in that it is commendable. Provincial departments responsible for local government should ideally have commensurate establishments if they are to fulfil their constitutional monitoring and support roles in terms of the Act, whether amended or not. I thank you. [Applause.]