Details of Dispute by Fr Charles Prince

Since long before the City of Cape Municipality existed, properties owned by the Catholic Church were exempt from rates in recognition of the work that the Catholic Church, and other religious organisations, do to serve the people of this city and this country. 

Up until at least 2008, the City did not require that we annually prove our properties are still being used for religious purposes. By 2011 the City began to periodically require us (and presumably all religious organisations) to prove that properties owned by them are still used for religious purposes. Initially a notification was (or was supposed to be) sent to the owners requesting this. 

In 2019 The City changed the manner of dealing with religious properties by creating the Rating Category Place of Worship but at the same time removed offices, parking, halls, accommodation for missionaries, camping sites and cemeteries from inclusion in the rates rebate.

Then in 2020 the City removed the category Place of Worship and started charging rates (and arrears) on various church properties. Many church properties have been categorised as Business and Commercial as per the City’s 2020/2021 Rates Policy, but some have been categorised Multi-Purpose and differential rates (and arrears) are being charged on different buildings on the same property. 

The local councillors are involved in this process of approving the annual budget, including any changes to the rates policy. It is our desire that you engage with them in order to make them aware of these changes and of the unhappiness of their constituents with the practices of the City with regards to religious organisations. 

Please remind them that most places of worship, run by religious organisations, rely on donations by their members (who are usually City ratepayers for their homes and other properties within the City) to cover their expenses. The City is, in effect, double-rating its residents if they own a home, or other property, and also belong to a religious organisation. Donations received by religious organisations are often spent on poverty alleviation and social upliftment. The reality is that religious groups within the City of Cape Town play a fundamental role in poverty alleviation and upliftment of the marginalised. Sadly, the rating of legitimate religious entities will have a direct impact on the poorest in our cities, as rates will have to come from what we should have spent on charity.  

It is perfectly reasonable to charge rates on properties owned by religious organisations that are NOT being used to further their work. We also understand and accept that these rules are in place to prevent and respond to the abuse of the religious exemption, but we have never done so, but have been providing both religious and social services to the people of this city and this country for more than 200 years. 

Lastly, please keep the property office informed of any changes to your municipal bills so that we can engage with the City on your behalf, in particularly

–          Change of category or value 

–          Any charging of rates 

The City has also recently introduced a debt-relief scheme for arrears, so please inform us if you have any outstanding accounts, so we can see if your parish qualifies for this. 

Fr Charles Prince
Archdiocese of Cape Town  
Property Department

Fr Charles Prince (Vicar for Property)
Mrs Desiré Jackson (Assistant)

021 462 2417 (Tues-Fri)               
083 290 0606 (Fr Charles – Emergencies only)