Bid to set up BCM solidarity fund fails as councillors accept an increase

The ANC proposed that the city set up its own solidarity fund where 4% would be deducted from councillors’ pay for three months.
The ANC proposed that the city set up its own solidarity fund where 4% would be deducted from councillors’ pay for three months.
Image: 123RF/ALLAN SWART

Fears of corruption, already-established contributions to struggling families and questions as to who would administer a Buffalo City Metro solidarity fund prevented councillors from setting up such a fund on Thursday — but they had no problem agreeing on an increase to their own salaries.

The ANC had proposed that the city set up its own solidarity fund where 4% would be deducted from councillors’ pay for three months.

This, the ruling party said, was in line with a directive from the SA Local Government Association (Salga), which has recommended that councillors contribute 4% of their salaries towards efforts to help people affected by the coronavirus.

Opposition parties pointed out that they were also contributing to the national Solidarity Fund announced by President Cyril Ramaphosa to help with the fight against Covid-19.

ANC chief whip Mawethu Marata said they wanted to do their bit to help struggling families.

“The president has spoken, so who are we not to follow suit. We want to assist those who have been severely affected by Covid-19,” he said.

EFF caucus leader Mziyanda Hlekiso said they were already donating to the Solidarity Fund, so they would not contribute to the planned BCM one.

He said they feared the BCM fund would not be used for what it was intended.

“With the history of stealing money in BCM we are clear we don’t trust this. We have a bad history of stealing money,” he said.

Salga has recommended that a mayor, two councillors, religious leaders and trade unions be part of the committee that will administer the solidarity fund.

Hlekiso feared only ANC councillors would serve on the committee.

DA caucus leader Terence Fritz said they had already contributed towards the Solidarity Fund, with  the party donating R1.5m towards it in April.

He said the DA wanted the local fund to mirror the national one and stressed that they needed transparency on how the fund would be spent.

“We are quite happy that people are donating but we want them to set up the fund according to regulations. The onus must be on each and every individual to join in, but they can’t just take your money.

“We want to see how they will handle the money because the money that they’ve used now, the R30m [food parcel vouchers], was a total disaster,” he said.

The city’s food parcel vouchers system has been marred by allegations of corruption and claims of some councillors sidelining destitute families for their own cronies.

ACDP councillor Luke Quse said: “We have an internal arrangement as a party where we have set [up] a fund that will target people who are adversely affected by Covid-19. The proposal to deduct 4% from councillors is a noble move but we have our internal arrangement.”

Quse said they had also raised concerns with how the R30m food parcel vouchers had been managed.

“The challenge is that it is being manipulated on the basis of partisanship where people of a certain political party are targeted to benefit,” he said.

Other parties could not be contacted.

Council approved increasing councillors’ salaries by 4%.

The decision still has to go to co-operative governance & traditional affairs MEC Xolile Nqatha for concurrence.

Should he rubber-stamp the council resolution, this is how much their annual salaries will be structured:

  • Mayor Xola Pakati will earn R1.4m;
  • Deputy mayor Zukiswa Matana and speaker Alfred Mtsi will earn R1.1m;
  • Marata, mayoral committee members and chair of section 79 committees will earn R1m; and
  • Part-time councillors will earn R525,000.

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