Hello darkness, my old friend…

It is obvious that money is being misspent while the majority has to support the good life of municipal members...

The Bulletin Newspaper
Darkness looms for GMM

Not even 6 months after violent protestors burned infrastructure of R21.8mil as a result of Eskom power cuts in October last year, GMM may be facing a similar situation as Eskom gave a notice stating that residents must prepare for another power cut because Govan Mbeki Municipality did not honour their Repayment plan.
“16 October was a dark day for all GMM residents,” Tisha Mhlanga, acting Municipal Manager, said at a fleet handover in December last year.  Sasol handed over a fleet of 11 vehicles, skips and mobile toilets to GMM to help replace the destroyed infrastructure.

Last week a statement from Eskom did the rounds on social media, first being made off as an April fools joke, but it turns out it was no joke at all. The statement read: “Eskom hereby gives notice to all parties that are likely to be materially and adversely affected by its intention to interrupt bulk supply to GMM. The municipality has failed to honour the Repayment Plan Agreement entered into on the 5th of January 2018. The interruption will resume on 16 April 2018.”

It further states: “GMM is currently indebted to Eskom to the amount of R513 502 033 for bulk supply electricity, part of which has been outstanding and in escalation since 1 August 2003.” The tax invoice to GMM, dated 12 February 2018, however, stated that the outstanding amount due was R584 993 587.63.

Eskom Holdings SOC Ltd is under a statutory obligation to generate and supply electricity to the municipalities nationally on a financial sustainable basis. GMM’s breach of its payment obligation to Eskom undermine and placed in jeopardy Eskom’s ability to continue the national supply of electricity on a financial sustainable basis. In order to protect the national interest in the sustainability of electricity supply, it has become necessary for Eskom to exercise its right to disconnect the supply of electricity to GMM.”

“Eskom recognises that the indefinite disconnection of electricity supply may cause undue hardship to consumers and members of the community and may adversely affect the delivery of other services. In view of this, Eskom is contemplating a regulated interruption of electricity supply as opposed to an outright disconnection. The contemplated regulated interruption will allow members of the community and consumers the opportunity to make alternative arrangements for the scheduled periods of interruption.”
The contemplated interruption will result in temporary scheduled disconnection at the following times:

In week one, starting from 16 April to 22 April, electricity will be cut from 06:00 to 08:00 and again from 17:00 till 19:30 from Monday to Friday. Over the weekend, the power will be cut from 08:30 until 11:00 and again from 15:00 to 17:30.
In week two (23 April – 29 April), the time will increase with an extra hour each time and in week three (starting 30 April), electricity will be down from 06:00 until 20:00. This will last until the debt is paid.

“Notwithstanding the above proposed indicative times for the interruption of electricity supply, Eskom may, upon 15 calendar days’ notice, disconnect electricity entirely and indefinitely should the electricity debt situation not improve.”
Two towns in GMM and their townships will be affected, namely Secunda, eMbalenhle, Bethal and eMzinoni.

“Eskom advises all parties who are likely to be materially and adversely affected by the contemplated interruption of bulk electricity supply to GMM to take all the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of lives and to limit damages to their equipment, operations and business.”

Encee van Huyssteen, DA Councillor, said that the mayor and her committee are misleading council and the public.
“The DA asked about possible electricity cut-offs when discussing the Eskom account at the council meeting on 28 March and the newly elected Mayor, Cllr Thandi Ngxonono, assured the council that there is no threat of any cut-offs at the moment despite not being able to pay the agreed amounts,” he said. “According to the legislature, normal procedure dictates that the intention to interrupt power supply should be communicated to the municipality 30 days in advance, thus the mayor would have been aware of this for a while now.”

“It means the Mayor was lying to the council and bringing the institution into disrepute, a serious misconduct that will not be forgiven,” Cllr Sbu Hlolweni from SAPROMO, said. “We filed a motion about a year ago, to advise the council to relinquish its right to distribute electricity within the jurisdiction of Govan Mbeki municipality. The motion was openly opposed by the ANC. We also submitted a motion against the current Mayor, which was rejected by the ANC as well. This is the clear indication that the ANC is not serious about the well being of the residents of the municipality,” Hlolweni said.

One Facebook user said: “If you don’t get to use electricity, you won’t have to pay. So where is GMM going to get the finances to settle the bill if the income stops?”
It is suspected by many that Sasol settled the amount Eskom wanted last year, but at the vehicle handover in December, Acting Municipal Manager, Tisha Mhlanga said that Sasol had nothing to do with repaying Eskom, it is a fabricated rumour and that GMM coughed up the money themselves. He also said that the money was paid into Eskom’s account in time, but the transaction didn’t reflect in time and that is why power was cut.

In the meantime, ex Mayor, Flora Maboa-Boltman, got the boot after a threat of a vote of no confidence succeeded, just for the ANC to elect the MMC for Finance, Thandi Ngxonono as Mayor. She took over this position when the previous MMC for Finance Cllr Mtsweni died and already has a motion of no confidence filed against her after not even 2 months in office. “GMM finances have since seen a steady and continual decline since her tenure,” Cllr Van Huyssteen, said.

“I hope GMM’s insurance is up to date. I believe eMba was a warning to politicians and management. Things are going to burn again,” Jan du Plessis, a resident, said.
Late last year, Sasol offered to settle the debt and take over finances if GMM were willing to hand over their books, but this was refused. Although there is no money to settle the debt, 127 ward committee members (residents who have to report to ward councillors on problems in their area) each received a Golf shirt, cap and bag last week. There were also talks of budgeting R1000 000 to buy them laptops and Joshua Nkosi, Gert Sibande District Municipality Speaker, said that it must be assured that each ward councillor gets a petrol card. They were all treated, together with councillors, for lunch and cold drinks at the Johannes Stegmann theatre after this event.

It is obvious that money is being misspent while the majority has to support the good life of municipal members. Even though no services are rendered, residents have to live between garbage as there is no money for diesel, service delivery vehicles are too few and potholes and crime are taking over the area.

Since GMM is never available for comment, it is unsure why only Bethal, Secunda and their township’s power will be cut while other towns in GMM will be unaffected. Last year rumours aroused that it is because certain GMM ANC councillors are living in towns that are spared the power cuts.

Power boxes are also starting to blow up because of cable theft and no maintenance. This is all happening after a huge Human Right Day commemoration, which took place at Johannes Stegmann Theatre under the somewhat ironic theme “The year of Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela: Celebrating his legacy”. GMM issued a statement saying: “The Mpumalanga Provincial Government is using the commemoration to educate the community of GMM about their human rights.

“Remember, we as the municipality work very close with the community, we are very close,” Thandi said on a meeting with MEGCHEM, which took place as part of the municipal stakeholder engagement session last Month. Her statement made some laugh and others mad. Gwendie Venter