Top-level bid to save Makana
Plans to save the embattled Makana municipality will be hashed out at an all-important meeting between provincial and national leaders in Pretoria on Friday.
This follows a march in the municipality’s hub, Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown), this week where a petition signed by about 21,000 residents calling for the council to be dissolved was handed over to speaker Yandiswa Vara.
Eastern Cape co-operative governance and traditional affairs MEC Fikile Xasa said he would meet minister Zweli Mkhize to discuss how the province would benefit from President Cyril Ramaphosa’s stimulus package.
“There are projects that have been packaged for Makana municipality,” Xasa said.
“We are meeting in Pretoria where we’ll get a presentation on the projects that are being implemented.
“We know about the infrastructure that is crumbling because it’s old. We want to deal with this once and for all.”
The municipality has been battling a number of administrative challenges, including financial constraints, struggling to pay staff and creditors and low revenue collection rates.
It was also recently discovered that there were between 60 and 80 ghost employees on the municipality’s payroll.
In the petition, the residents said the council must be dissolved due to frequent electricity and water outages, potholes, sewage flowing in streets and uncollected rubbish.
Xasa said the provincial government constantly injected money into the municipality, without any results.
Asked if he would consider placing the municipality under administration, he said that would depend on the content of the petition and the reasons given by the residents.
About 24,000 voters cast their ballots in the Makana region during the 2016 municipal elections.
The Grahamstown Residents’ Association’s Tim Bull said putting the council under administration was not necessarily the only solution to Makhanda’s problems, but he had noted that when the municipality was previously under administration there had been improvements.
“We’ve had 22 months from 2014 to 2016 when we were under some administration and right now it’s worse than when we were under administration.
“We’re at a stage now where almost every week there’s a new disaster of some sort and Tim Bull certainly in the last two weeks we’ve had chronic problems with water supply.
“During that water crisis, which carried on for two weeks, we have not had a word from anybody in the council, in particular the mayor, of sympathy or concern, of taking charge or to mitigate.”
Bull said residents needed to try to achieve better political leadership and that during the previous administration, with the support of the National Treasury, a financial recovery plan had been drafted but never fully implemented.
“Just getting meters read is not taking place because there’s a dispute whether meter readers are wearing the right uniform, which means rates collections are going down,” he said.
ANC Sarah Baartman regional chair Scara Njadayi said its members in the council were new and had inherited recurring problems such as ageing infrastructure and challenges like the alleged rise in corruption in the municipality.
This was apparently uncovered by recently appointed city boss Moppo Mene.
“It was not easy for those councillors to contend with those challenges, but we granted them the necessary support,” Njadayi said.
“I can’t say these councillors are poor in terms of performance, but they are engulfed with challenges and are trying their best to deal and contend with those challenges.”
Makana DA caucus leader Mlindi Nhanha said it was clear that residents had had enough of the ANC-led government because it had failed them at every turn.
Further, service delivery was foreign to Makana while residents continued paying rates and taxes, Nhanha said.
“The ANC without doubt has failed the people of Makana, hence the DA chose to be on the side of the people.
“Residents are calling for dissolution of the council and fresh elections to be held within three months so that voters be given an opportunity to elect a new, capable government led by the DA.
“Eskom debt has been spiralling with no end in sight.
“It’s now sitting at R69m, excluding the current account.
“Including the current account it is more than R80m.
“A few months ago the council adopted a DA-sponsored resolution to ring-fence all revenue from electricity sales and service the debt.
“Instead, they continue paying salaries with money derived from electricity sales.
“The mayor has failed to ensure the implementation of this crucial resolution.”
Makana municipal manager Mene did not respond to calls.