The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), Dr Zweli Mkhize joined by the Minister of Public Works, Mr Thulas Nxesi met with the leadership of Beyers Naude Local Municipality in Graaf Reinet in the Eastern Cape last night, 25 April 2019 to discuss support to the municipality.
The meeting was aimed at discussing the challenges faced by the municipality and the recovery plan that has been developed to provide solutions. It took place in the context of the national CoGTA Back to Basics municipal recovery programme of supporting municipalities in distress in order to improve functionality.
The Mayor of Dr Beyers Naude municipality, Mr Deon De Vos presented the State of the Municipality report which recorded the challenges and areas requiring urgent attention.
The state of the municipality report indicated governance and financial management challenges.
The municipality raised a number of concerns, including inadequate budget allocated for service delivery, challenges related to the implementation of the financial recovery plans, amalgamation of municipalities, escalating salaries, infrastructure maintenance and development, Eskom debt and a bloated organogram due to the amalgamation of municipalities.
The Municipality also raised a concern about the budget allocated to the Municipality to deliver services, taking into consideration the need to address historical financial challenges presented by the amalgamation process given that some of the municipalities that were amalgamated were dysfunctional.
The municipality is currently owed an amount of R72 billion by clients connected to the power grid.
Due to budgetary constraints and limited or inadequate revenue collection, the municipality is unable to pay its bulk electricity account, hence Eskom has switched off electricity a number of times. The municipality owes Eskom an amount of R94 million and this put the municipality in a precarious situation. Minister Mkhize said the matter should be tabled before the InterMinisterial Task Team dealing with debts owed to Eskom and Water Boards.
Minister Mkhize applauded the Municipality on their financial recovery plan which is meant to save and turn around the finances of the municipality. As part of the financial recovery plan, the municipality has embarked on cost cutting measures and has entered into agreements with debtors so as to pay a manageable amount monthly.
Minister Mkhize indicated that CoGTA’s Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA) will provide technical support to the municipal in the refurbishment and maintenance of infrastructure.
“The meeting has been very fruitful. They have given us a clearer picture of the situation they are facing to enable us to provide support in terms of the national Municipal Recovery Plan which forms part of CoGTA’s Back to Basics programme. We are pleased that the municipality fully understands the constraints within which they operate hence the efforts they are making to turn their situation around. CoGTA nationally and provincially will continue to provide support. We are very happy that we were able to meet the Dr Beyers Naude team to discuss these issues,” said Minister Mkhize.
Minister Mkhize urged the Municipality to work closely with the people and keep them informed of developments as they tackle the challenges.
“The public representatives should be able to engage on issues of concern raised by communities at all times. What frustrates our communities is silence at times from leaders. They want to be part of the solution and should be kept informed of what is going on in their municipalities and what is being done to attend to issues that they raise. We emphasised this point to the municipality and it applies to all other municipalities”, said the Minister.
Minister Mkhize and Minister Nxesi were in the town to launch public employment programmes, and the Ministers urged the municipality to take advantage of the Community Work Programme and the Expanded Public Work Programme so that some community members can benefit.
Minister Mkhize also emphasised that government does not tolerate corruption, especially in the municipalities and urged that there be a “strong voice against corruption backed by action and consequences for those caught” in the municipalities.
The Mayor, Mr De Vos also expressed his appreciation of the meeting and the municipality looks forward to ongoing engagement. CoGTA will continue to engage Dr Buyers Naude Municipality to support the recovery plan.
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