Makana Municipality cash crisis: Eskom power cut threat averted during National Arts Festival

Officials from the Makana Municipality recently approached Eskom in an eleventh-hour attempt to delay cutting electricity to Grahamstown until after the annual 10-day National Arts Festival which starts today (subs: 29 June 2017).  The municipality owes Eskom more than R54-million and is unable to service the account.   While a calamity during a showcase event for the Eastern Cape seems to have been avoided, for now, Makana is a municipality in crisis.

Inadequate rates collection has resulted in a monthly operating deficit of R7-million. Makana’s bloated bureaucracy spends an exorbitant 80% of this income on salaries and on servicing debts, which leaves nothing for service delivery. Disbursement in this manner is unsustainable and the impact is clear to see in collapsed road- and water infrastructure and all communities living in filth.

Overtime has topped R5-million, while only R2,1 million was budgeted for.  Only 48% of capital grant funding has spent, meaning unspent money will be returned to the Provincial Treasury and used elsewhere.   This money could have been used to improve infrastructure and thus attract investment and job opportunities for the people of Makana.

In a special council meeting called to discuss the crisis in the municipality on Tuesday (subs:  27 June) the DA caucus leader, Cllr Mlindi Nhanha, proposed that a special task team that represents all political parties in council be set up to co-opt residents with the requisite skills, particularly from the economic and engineering sectors, to draft and implement a turnaround strategy for Makana. He further proposed that an independent firm be appointed to investigate the alleged abuse of the overtime system. The results of this investigation would first be adopted by council, then referred to the Hawks.  Both proposals were adopted by council.

If these turnaround strategies do not yield positive and long term results, I will request that the MEC of Cooperative Affairs, Fikile Xasa, place Makana under administration according to Sect 139 (5) of the Constitution with immediate effect.  This will force the municipality to adopt and implement a financial recovery plan prepared in accordance with national legislation until such time that the crisis is resolved.   Previously, the municipality was placed under administration in terms of Section 139 1 (b) which had no lasting effect.

Time is running out for Makana. In DA-led municipalities, service delivery is top priority and this is achieved through good, clean governance. As the current ruling party refuses to be held to account, we call on the residents of Makana to vote them out of power and instead vote for change that will restore our once beautiful city in order to attract investment and tourism again. — Jane Cowley MPL and Frontier Constituency Leader