The Govan Mbeki Council has adopted, its Annual Budget, and Integrated Development Plan for the 2020/2021 financial year during a virtual council meeting that took place on Thursday, 28 May 2020.
The new budget as tabled by the municipality should be viewed against the state of the municipality as it is currently.
- The contamination of our rivers and streams by continual sewer spillages and even planned dumping of the sewer into the freshwater systems should be noted.
- The continual lack of refuse collection together with the nonexistence of legal licenced dumping sites as well as the illegal dumping that continue unabated should be noted.
- The continual and regular water losses that go unchecked for days on end should be noted.
- Electricity losses of up to 53% together with the large problem of free electricity to those that connect illegally should be noted.
All opposition parties rejected the budget especially the tariff increases.
Democratic Alliance (DA) Caucus Leader in GMM, Cllr Ciska Jordaan said that the DA has rejected in the strongest possible terms the implementation of tariffs of the following municipal services:
- Refuse increased by 4.9%
- Water increased by 6.6%
- Sewerage increased by 6.6%
- Electricity increased by 6.24%
- Deposits increased by 6.6% and miscellaneous tariffs by 4.9%
Cllr Jordaan also said that the DA had proposed, as an alternative, to both the Govan Mbeki and the Gert Sibande District councils that CoGTA, ESKOM, NERSA and Rand Water are approached for the possibility to waive tariff increases for the first 6 months of the financial year until such time that the adjustment budget is considered due to the state of disaster that has caused for many residents in our municipality simply not to be able generate an income and afford additional charges on their municipal accounts.
The argument by the ANC is that the municipality has no control over tariff increases and that the non-implementation thereof would spiral the municipality into financial ruin.
They are not considering that an increase in tariffs at this stage might result in an increase of non-payment of accounts.
This is especially so if residents are not receiving the services they pay for. Bethal and eMzinoni have been without electricity for months while eMbalenhle has also been suffering under forced load shedding for close to two years. Refuse removal continues to be inconsistent while illegal dumping has become the order of the day in some of our towns. The streets are ridden with raw sewerage in many areas, water distribution is dependent on reactive repair to infrastructure rather than proactive maintenance and the escalating debts towards ESKOM and Rand Water make it impossible for residents to have confidence in a consistent supply of water and electricity.
“We are of the opinion that if there was truly a willingness to implement the myriad of turnaround strategies that had been compiled,” said Cllr Jordaan, “ the by-laws and policies that are guiding generation of revenue and the Financial Recovery Plan that was adopted by the council a year ago and to address water and electricity losses the municipality would not have any excuse not to compensate by other means for the financial loss that non-implementation of tariff increases would apparently result in.”
“It is in fact perceived as insulting that besides several progressive inputs that were submitted by the DA to compensate for a possible financial blow, the powers that are designated to the Executive Mayor and the council during the state of disaster makes it legislatively very possible to provide relief to residents in this form, yet the ANC-led council has opted nonetheless compensate for mismanagement and to recover its financial ineptitude from the pockets of residents.”
The Democratic Alliance is however satisfied that a commitment was made to draft policies regarding financial relief to residents and businesses who have been financially affected by COVID-19 and the lockdown, following a proposal that was submitted by the DA to the finance portfolio committee and positively responded to by the CFO, Mr B Sithole, and will continue to motivate for the implementation of this proposal.
In addition, the DA has also urged for the R10 million that has been set aside by the Govan Mbeki Municipality (GMM) and R2 million by the Gert Sibande District Municipality in their budgets to address the electricity problem in Bethal/eMzinoni as well as the delivery of the 20 MVA transformer from ESKOM that is to be allocated to eMbalenhle to be finalized as a critical matter of urgency.
As mentioned earlier, the towns of Bethal, eMzinoni and eMbalenhle have been burdened with electricity interruptions and load shedding.
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During the month of December 2019, Eskom informed GMM to notify all residents and customers of the municipality of Eskom’s intention that due to the exceeding of the NMD (notified maximum demand) in certain towns (Bethal, eMzinoni Township, eMbalenhle Township, Kinross and Evander), the Municipality will have to implement partially load shedding.
The Municipality applied to Eskom to Upgrade the Notified Maximum Demand (NMD), however Eskom refused as GMM owes Eskom R1,8b.
Communication of Eskom’s intention was given to the community on the 12/02/2020.
“Because of constant load shedding of up to 8 hours a day, residents have lost household appliances, as well as perishables,” said Cllr Mariaan Chamberlain, DA Constituency Chairperson (GMM), “load shedding sometimes went up to 8 hours. The elderly in retirement homes found it extremely difficult, as some are dependent on oxygen machines. Apart from this, lockdown kicked in which made frustrations even higher.”
The DA MPL Bosman Grobler wrote to GSDM, as well as COGTA, and eventually escalated it to the Shadow Minister in parliament, to ask for assistance.
On the 22nd of May, the response from the MEC of Cogta was that they take note of all concerns, and that the Department would interfere and give feedback on the progress. No feedback has been received from COGTA of its interference yet.
Due to continual pressure from the DA and from community members who have resorted to taking to the streets, finally an amount of R12m has been allocated to the electricity situation in Bethal and eMzinoni. During an IDP meeting from GSDM an amount of R2m was allocated towards GMM. This will help with the R10m GMM has budgeted for upgrading the Bethal infrastructure.
“In eMbalenhle residents must sometimes go without power for up to 12 hours or longer. Eskom together with Bigen Africa is busy installing a mobile transformer from Bracken mine, to assist the community of Emba,” said Cllr Chamberlain, “This project is behind schedule at the moment with no clear indication as to why!”
Winter is approaching. To be cold, hungry and in the dark is jeopardising the livelihood of these towns and needs to be attended asap.