The Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA), Dr Zweli Mkhize undertook a return visit to Makana Municipality in Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown) earlier today 26 April 2019 to monitor and assess progress made since his last visit in 2018 to discuss the turnaround of the municipality.
This important meeting took place a day before the Freedom Day celebrations that will be held in Makhanda, Makana Local Municipality.
The municipality presented the state of the municipality report which highlighted the challenges and opportunities. According to the report, the municipality is facing a number of challenges relating: governance, financial management and service delivery.
The Minister was briefed on the interventions to deal with issues of water and sanitation. The plan has been developed to provide capacity and prioritisation of resources within the context of Back to Basics Municipal Recovery programme and mobilising broader government for holistic support.
Water challenges in the municipality, especially in the west side of the city remains acute.the issue is exacerbated by the drought conditions currently prevailing in Makana. The dams in the west of Makana are running at 7% (Settlers) -24% (Howiesons Poort) at this stage. There is also a challenge of a huge sludge that is affecting the purification of water. Amatola Water is assisting to render maintenance and operations services in the Makana Water Treatment Works, for a period of three months, effective from 08 March 2019, subject to further consideration until the municipality get its capacity in order.
Minister Mkhize emphasised that the municipality should put plan in place and fill in the vacant positions to ensure that when Amatola Water Board leaves at the end of the agreement, they are able to service their infrastructure. In addition, Minister directed that the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (MISA) deploy technical graduate trainees who will assist with infrastructure maintenance and refurbishment.
The Municipality indicated that East/West water complexity of Makana is to be resolved by upgrading James Kleinhans Water Treatment Works which scheduled to be completed by June 2019. Minister Mkhize indicated that lack of funding is one of the key challenges and these are caused by poor revenue collection and this has compromised infrastructure maintenance.
Minister Mkhize challenged the municipal leadership to find ways of turning Makana around and ensure that revenue flows back into the municipality once again. “We cannot be complacent, Makana has the potential to turn around revenue collection, we therefore need to double our efforts and come up with plans that will have communities at the centre participating in the development of the town”, said Minister Mkhize.
Minister urged the municipality to engage various stakeholders and role-players to assist in turning around the municipality. Such role-players include local business and Rhodes University which contributes 64% to the GDP of Makana.
“All these stakeholders are willing investors and this makes their engagement an urgent matter. We can’t allow this town to go down”, said Minister Mkhize.
The Minister also urged all councillors to play their role and commit to serving communities, thus taking the municipality forward to greater heights.
The issues looked at include the following;
- The bloated organogram resulting from the amalgamation of municipalities. CoGTA will provide the national prototype framework. “It is imperative that this process includes the prioritisation of filling vacant positions, especially technical posts that will assist to provide stability in infrastructure refurbishment and maintenance,” said Minister Mkhize
- Minister Mkhize urged that as part of the issues to be discussed with the private sector, maintenance and refurbishment of road infrastructure was important and this included the fixing of portholes.
- The Minister urged the municipality to work with communities raising public awareness to ensure that Makana is kept clean at all times and that there is no illegal dumping of waste. “When the town is clean and safe, tourists and investors will be able to come back and thus assisting to improve the economy. A clean and well-maintained town will also make residents feel proud of themselves and their town”, said Minister Mkhize.
- On the issues of electricity, Minister emphasised that there will not any financial bailout for the municipality to pay its Eskom debt which is sitting an amount of R27 Million. The Municipality was urged to prioritise to meet its financial contractual obligations.
“We should also not lose touch with our stakeholders, need to keep them updated and manage the sentiments guided by our recovery plans. If we don’t engage communities, they will not understand the work that we are doing to change their lives,” said Minister Mkhize.
Minister Mkhize noted considerable progress made by the municipality since his last visit towards improving governance. He emphasised that the road to total recovery might take longer than expected, but the municipality should continue to work hard and take the people along.
“With our resolve, hard work and working together, there is hope for Makana Local Municipality and for Makhanda as a town,” said Minister Mkhize