The South African Local Government Association (Salga) has appealed to municipalities to take legal steps against those who fail to pay rates and for services.
The Salga NEC is holding its annual lekgotla in Buffalo City for three days until today.
The lekgotla provides local government leaders with a platform to not only reflect on the past year but also to examine the present environment in which municipalities operate but also to make future projections.
Salga spokesman Mogomotsi Mogodiri said nonpayment for services impacted negatively on service delivery.
He said six of the countries' metro municipalities were owed more than R26,6billion.
Mogodiri said the municipalities had been urged to implement vigorous credit control measures.
"We will continue to engage everyone over the issue," he said. "The municipalities must do everything possible to collect what is due to them."
Mogodiri said government departments that owed money should lead by example and pay.
"Government departments receive an allocation every year and it's not possible for them not to budget for rates or services they get from municipalities," he said.
"Government leaders should crack the whip on officials to pay the money due to the municipalities."
He said: "Municipalities have other roles to play, especially helping people not to depend on government grants."
Meanwhile ANC general secretary Gwede Mantashe has called on Salga to provide strong leadership on local government issues.
"Salga must not only be involved in the contestation of ideas but must also lead in terms of debates on rural and agrarian development, municipal finance viability and sustenance, and corporate governance issues," he said.
Mantashe said the municipalities should take the lead and initiate projects to address the food crises.