In the meeting there was an informal read-through of most recent changes to amendments, and a formal clause by clause read-through of the Local Government: Municipal Property Rates Amendment Bill. The formal read-through resulted in the adoption of the Bill.
The informal read-through provided a last opportunity for comments. An IFP Member still had reservations about the adequacy of the definition of agricultural property, related to portions of a farm used for game farming and eco-tourism, and hospitality for commercial purposes. There was comment on clause 12(b), related to a Ministerial notice to municipalities to limit amount in the Rand. The IFP Member felt that it had to be expressly stated, in the clause and the notice that retrospective payment was not implied, for the guidance of municipal managers. There was a brief discussion around the appointment of professional valuers and professional associate valuers to valuation appeal boards. Members indicated their agreement to the phrase “must be applied by a municipality”, in relation to the provisions of section 8, in clause 35.
Although the IFP and DA indicated that they would be abstaining from voting, as they still had to take the matter to their party caucuses, the Chairperson noted that they would have a chance to speak to any clauses with which they disagreed during the Parliamentary debate. The DA Member noted that he did not agree with clauses clause 6, amending section 8 of the principal Act, which he did not believe that it was constitutionally sound, and also noted his objection to clause 25, amending section 58(ii) and clause 13, amending section 17. The majority of Members present, reading through the Bill clause by clause, agreed to the clauses and adopted the Bill, with the abstention of the DA and IFP noted.
Local Government: Municipal Property Rates Amendment Bill [B33-2013]
Informal reading of most recent changes (12 February 2012)
The Chairperson referred to the document reflecting the most recent changes to the Local Government: Municipal Property Rates Amendment Bill (the Bill), noting that these were the result of prior and ongoing deliberations. Final comments were awaited.
Clause 1 (amendment to section 1 of the Act): definition of agricultural property
Mr P Smith (IFP) reiterated a question posed the previous day, about the situation where one half of an agricultural property was used for faming, and the other half for eco-tourism. The idea of separate portions of the property being used differently applied to the categories of agriculture, game farming and eco-tourism, and commercial hospitality of guests.
Ms Veronica Mafoko, Senior Manager, Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, replied that the emphasis had to fall on “without derogating from section 9”. In terms of section 9, a certain portion of an agricultural property could be categorised as multiple use, or it could be decided to categorise it according to dominant use.
Mr Smith asked why the wording for portion used commercially for the hospitality of guests had been included.
Ms Mafoko replied that the Department had debated whether to remove this wording, but after deliberation it had been decided to leave in this reference. She said that eco-tourism and game farming were not considered “agricultural property” use.
Mr Smith remarked that the same applied to hospitality for commercial purposes.
Ms Mafoko replied that the exclusion of game farming and eco-tourism had already been in the principal Act.
The Chairperson concluded that it made sense to leave in the reference to commercial hospitality in.
Clause1(h): relating to official residence in relation to places of public worship
Members agreed to the wording of this clause.
Clause1(l):change of word ”prisons” to “correctional facilities”
Members agreed to the wording of this clause.
Clause 12 (amendment of section 16 of Act 6 of 2004): Notice by the Minister that rates had to be limited to an amount in the rand
Mr Smith noted that “the start of the financial year” could be read as the current year, or the year following.
Ms Mafoko replied that the notion of retrospective payment was not in the Bill.
Ms Harriet Mekwa, State law Adviser, Office of the Chief State Law Adviser, added that the phrasing captured the fact that the rates would be effective from the date the notice was signed. There would be no going back on payments.
Mr Smith remarked that the phrasing of the clause had to give clarity to municipal officials about the date.
Ms Mekwa replied that it stipulated “from the date determined by the Minister in the notice”.
Mr Smith felt that if the notice did not expressly state that there would not be retrospective payment, applicants might assume that retrospective payments could apply. He reiterated that the situation should be set out quite clearly, for guidance of municipal managers.
Ms Mafoko replied that there was concern over retrospectivity. Legal terms did not imply retrospectivity in the primary legislation.
Mr Mzilikazi Manyike, Executive Manager, Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, added that the Department wanted to introduce retrospectivity, but the legal advisers were against it. The Committee had to be involved.
Ms Mekwa added that the essence of retrospectivity was within the legislation, but there was a decision not to write it in specifically. She said that instead it was decided that the matter would proceed forward from the date given in the Minister’s notice.
Mr Smith remarked that there had to be a discretion for the Minister to demand retrospective payment when a municipality had overcharged.
Clause 24 (amendment to section 58 of the principal Act): professional and professional associate valuers
Ms W Nelson (ANC) asked what the situation would be if professional valuers could not be found.
Ms Mafoko replied that a call for interest had gone out from the MEC. Professional valuers had submitted applications. If no professional valuers could be found, professional associate valuers would be appointed to the valuation boards. Ideally, appointment of professional valuers would be sought, but otherwise the MEC could also take employment equity into account, and appoint professional associate valuers who met requirements.
Clause 35 (insertion of sections 93A and 93B into the principal Act): transitional arrangement: Differential rates
The insertion of (provisions of section 8) “must be applied by a municipality” was agreed to.
Clause by clause reading, for adoption of the Bill
Mr Smith noted that he would not be able to vote, as he did not yet have a mandate from his party (IFP).
Mr J Steenhuizen (DA) indicated that the DA member would also abstain from voting, as he had to wait for the caucus on the following Thursday.
The Chairperson told the two parties that they could highlight any clauses that they wished to, in the Parliamentary debate.
All 36 clauses in the Bill, and the short title, were agreed upon by the majority of the Members present at the Committee.
Mr Steenhuizen noted his objection to clause 6, amending section 8 of the principal Act, as he did not believe that it was constitutionally sound. He also noted his objection to clause 25, amending section 58(ii) and clause 13, amending section 17.
The majority of Members present also agreed with the wording of the Preamble.
The Bill was adopted by the majority, with the DA and IFP abstaining from voting.
Mr Steenhuizen said that he had enjoyed the process, and thanked the Department.
The Chairperson reiterated his thanks to the Department and Members.
The meeting was adjourned.
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