The Zwartberg Farmers’ Association (ZFA) said that, initially, the GKM had refused to reconsider the increase, and farmers had planned a protest march – but this was cancelled after negotiations at last proved successful. The situation was only reversed after Nomusa Dube, MEC for the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, reportedly ordered the GKM to hold discussions with farmers and other residents, with a view to revising the proposed increases.
“The GKM reviewed the budget and decided to keep the rebate at 41% and to increase the tariff by 7%,” said ZFA spokesperson Meg Rorich. Because the Municipal Property Rates Act states that agricultural land can be taxed at only 0,25% of the net residential rate, farmers’ rates in the GKM will be increased by only 3%. “The farmers are obviously thrilled with the outcome and there was much celebration. It shows what working together can achieve,” said Rorich, refering to the ZFA, the Kokstad Ratepayers’ Association, the Mount Currie Farmers’ Association, and the Kokstad Chamber of Commerce’s co-operation.
The KZN Agricultural Union, umbrella body for most of the province’s farmers’ associations, said it was reviewing various government gazettes containing proposed agricultural rate increase by municipalities across KZN. Kwanalu CEO Sandy la Marque said that she would be comparing these figures, given that the Constitution required municipalities to impose rates in a manner that was not prejudicial to their ratepayers.
“Obviously, it’s good that the issue was resolved in the Greater Kokstad Municipality,” she said. “However, it’s concerning that those ratepayers had to go to the extreme of planning a protest march to get a response from the municipality. How, in the current economic climate, can rates be increased to over the consumer price index?”