By KWANELE DHLADHLA | 2021-04-08
Good news! The Municipal Council of Manzini has not increased the rates tariff for the current financial year (2021/2022). Instead, council took a decision to reduce the tariff, at the city currently valued at E4.5 billion. When unpacking the reduction, Information and Communications Officer Mathokoza Thwala made an example that the tariff for vacant residential property was 2.2 per cent during the last financial year yet it stands at 1.45 per cent according to the notice for rates assessment for the period between April 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022. Thwala said the same applies to vacant commercial properties. He said last year the tariff was at 5.5 per cent but this year it had been reduced to 3.6 per cent. decrease Actually, Thwala clarified that the tariff decrease had been applied across all categories of rateable property in the city such as residential, commercial, semi-commercial, government properties and urban farm land. When justifying the rationale behind the dropped rates tariff, Thwala said the decision was primarily based on the premise of being a considerate municipality that has the interest of ratepayers at heart. “Council felt that since the city was fresh from a general valuation of properties, an exercise which saw an increase in values of most properties in the city, the rates for the current financial year (2021/2022) would have increased drastically if the tariff had not been adjusted. The municipality strives to ensure that rates charged on properties are at a reasonable level,” Thwala explained. empowered Thwala mentioned that the municipality was empowered by the Rating Act, 1995, to levy rates each financial year. Section 4 of the Act reads: "Subject to this act, the local authority shall make, assess and levy a general rate each financial year upon all immovable property within the area of such local authority...” Further, he said Section 5 of the act authorises the municipality to assess and levy a differential rate which may be higher or lower than the general rate upon specified categories of residential or non-residential immovable property. In an effort to maintain good relations with property owners, Thwala said the municipality periodically engages ratepayers and issues constant reminders about their outstanding rates balances. It was stated that those who were found to have not paid in a period over one year were handed over to the municipality's lawyers. “However, it must be emphasised that taking the legal process is always the last resort,” Thwala emphasised. To attest to the fact that they take rates defaulters to court as a last resort, Thwala said the last public auction of defaulting properties was convened in 2009. He also appreciated property owners who continue to pay their rates against all odds. It was mentioned that payment of rates enables the municipality to provide the necessary municipal services to the city. Ratepayers who have difficulty paying were encouraged not to hesitate to engage the Collector of Rates (Finance Director) so that better payment terms could be arranged. “The municipality discourages non-payment of rates as this is a legal obligation that is expected from all property owners in the city. “The municipality will soon be posting new rates bills. Ratepayers are urged to make an effort to pay as soon as possible in order to avoid their accounts attracting interest,” added Thwala.
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