The municipalities of the North-West of Hell: Inter …

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A woman fills her bucket from a running tap in the northwest. (Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed)

In a new petition to the Northwest High Court in Mahikeng, the business interest group Sakeliga asked a judge to appoint a special master to handle payments for water, electricity and repairs in two of the failing municipalities in the province.

Business interest group Sakeliga has filed an unusual petition with the North West High Court, asking a judge to block municipal tariffs in two of the troubled municipalities in the North West Province and appoint a special master to make payments to Eskom and for water and repair services. before giving “what remains” to the municipality.

“This is an application that has one goal in mind, and which is to ensure effective and functional governance within the local government of the North West Province”, said Pieter le Roux, CEO of Sakeliga, in his affidavit.

The request cites provincial CEMs for funding; cooperative governance, human settlements and traditional affairs; the national minister of cooperative governance, Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma; the Minister of Finance Tito Mboweni; the local municipality of Ditsobotla based in Lichtenburg; the local municipality of Naledi based in Vryburg; the Premier of the North West Province, Job Mokgoro; as well as Eskom and the board of directors of Magalies Water.

Le Roux said that in documents served on two municipalities in the Northwest, as well as the Minister of Finance and others, Sakeliga is asking the court for innovative and far-reaching interventions that have never been applied at the level municipal.

“What is new in this case is that it goes beyond temporary solutions. It seeks primarily to prevent incompetent or corrupt city officials from accessing water and electricity payments, which is necessary for a long-term solution.

“To this end, Sakeliga asks the court to appoint a special master – such as independent auditors – to take control of the water and electricity payments. The special captain can then make payments directly to Eskom and water suppliers, as well as for the maintenance of electricity and water infrastructure.

“Only a remaining portion will be made available to the municipality and the administrative team,” said Le Roux.

He explained in his affidavit that “a simple reading” of the official document detailing the state of the municipalities in the province shows “that it appears that almost all the municipalities, and in particular the municipalities mentioned in the application, have all experienced or suffered a total collapse. governance over the past 10 years.

“It seems that every constitutional duty that has been entrusted to local government in the North West Province has been neglected to such an extent that the affected community cannot rely on the local government to provide even the most basic municipal services. “

Le Roux added that municipalities were riddled with debt and plagued by corruption. “All tax audits have been lost.

He mentioned that the communities living in the two municipalities named in their request had to go to court to protect themselves from a power cut, because the municipalities did not pay Eskom the money owed to him. .

He added that the two municipalities – Ditsobotla and Naledi – are also no longer able to maintain their cross-linking water and sewerage services.

Le Roux said that although the provincial government advised that a stimulus plan be implemented in almost all municipalities in the province, the MEC did not recognize the urgency to remedy the situation and that the Municipal collapse has gone so far that it is no longer viable to implement a strategy.

He proposed that a special master be appointed by the court to manage the money paid to municipalities for water and electricity.

Le Roux said they suggested that municipal tariffs be boxed in and that the remaining part be paid to municipalities once Eskom and the water utility authorities are paid.

“The purpose of the trial is to save local economies by providing a structural solution. While we and other organizations routinely succeed with bans and other short-term interventions, lasting solutions require control over the flow of money.

“After years of failure at all levels of government to intervene as they should have, we are now asking the court to order the special master to take control of the most important financial matters – those relating to water and water. electricity – until the National Treasury financial recovery plan has been properly implemented.

Le Roux says Sakeliga is trying to defuse a situation that threatens to destabilize the whole country.

“Failure at the local level is the result of a breakdown of management and control at all levels of government, down to Cabinet.

“If we were to just keep securing bans against disruption of service by Eskom and the water boards, then Eskom and those water boards would collapse financially, taking all the tax dollars with them.

“On the other hand, if we allow electricity and water to be cut or interrupted, it heralds the end of this local economy – property values ​​would drop to zero and entire populations would migrate to subways. , which only shifts the pressure and destabilizes the major centers.

“A third way is needed… the services have to be rendered and the payments for those services have to get to the right destinations. “

The documents submitted to the court provide overwhelming evidence of the collapse of local government in the province. Seven-year auditor reports show that of 154 reports filed by 22 municipalities during this period, only 16 were audited without qualification.

The municipality of Ditsobotla was “under administration”, but according to an official report from the provincial government, “serious and damning allegations against key officials and advisers are not allowed to be tabled at council meetings.”

The municipality has an unfunded budget and owes Eskom nearly R700 million. A law firm has been appointed to investigate the loss and alleged misappropriation of funds from the national integrated electrification plan.

The municipality has no supply chain manager, no proper IT system, and has received three consecutive warnings from the Auditor General. An intervention in the municipality of Naledi was withdrawn because the officials had “a good attitude”.

“It’s a story of distress,” Le Roux said, referring to the report.

He said that after Sakeliga filed a request under the Freedom of Information Promotion Act against the municipality of Ditsobotla, the request and subsequent summons served on officials were simply ignored.

“The potholes practically destroyed what was left of the tourism industry,” he said, adding that most residents had to rely on water tanks because the crosslinking system was in good condition. collapse, as well as the power grid, storm sewers and sewage. system.

Le Roux said the municipality has informed residents that they cannot fix the sewerage issues in the city because they don’t have the money and business owners have to appoint private contractors to carry out the work.

He said Naledi Municipality owed Eskom 390 million rand and had similar problems with Ditsobotla Municipality.

Le Roux said poor debt collection and non-payment of rates were at the heart of the problem.

“One of the main reasons communities are wary of political structures is that they know about their corrupt activities. They know their hard earned money is being mismanaged.

“They know that many councilors are corrupt … Members of the community understand that the money paid into the hands of these corrupt officials will not reach the real creditors of the municipalities,” he added.

No date has been set for a hearing. SM / MC

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