SPEECH NOTES: CONSIDERATION OF REPORT OF PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON COOPERATIVE GOVERNANCE AND TRADITIONAL AFFAIRS ON OVERSIGHT VISITS TO MUNICIPALITIES AROUND CHRIS HANI DISTRICT MUNICIPALITY

Issued by Sanele Magaqa, MPL

Enoch Mgijima is in distress and is collapsing under the pressure of maladministration

Service Delivery is has deteriorated in this municipality.
Maladministration has resulted in the municipality being in complete financial and governance distress.
Enoch Mgijima Municipality must be dissolved.

Honourable speaker, honourable premier, honourable members and guests, good afternoon.

Honourable speaker, lets start with the most urgent problem that is faced by this municipality as we speak. Every person in Enoch Mgijima Municipality is well aware that the state-owned enterprise, ESKOM is STILL struggling to keep the lights on.

This issue is discussed everywhere, everyday as people suffer, businesses suffer and jobs are being lost! But what every person does not know about is the cold, hard FACT that this municipality owes ESKOM almost R 200 million!

Next month it will be a full year in terms of which this municipality has implemented a so-called payment plan to repay the R198 million. We would like to know, Honourable Speaker, how much money was actually paid over to ESKOM this year by this municipality to ensure that the people of Enoch Mgijima has electricity, to ensure that the businesses in Enoch Mgijima can continue operating and to ensure that people’s jobs are safe?

If the people thought that the situation is bad as it is, let me reveal to you, that you are at risk of having your power cut completely! That means a complete blackout which means that the people living in Enoch Mgijima will return to the dark ages!

Except for business that will not be able to operate which will lead to jobs being lost, unless you have a generator and lots of money for diesel or gas, you will NOT be able to cook, you will NOT have water, sewerage systems will FAIL to operate as pumps will not work, you will NOT find petrol at the pumps, you will NOT be able to pump water through waste water treatment works and supply water to residents. The Democratic Alliance has long since warned that this municipality is headed for a disaster, our pleas for assistance has fallen on deaf ears!

I can hear some of you ask: How did debt accumulate to such an amount? Why did the municipality fail to pay ESKOM?

Honourable Speaker, the fact is that ESKOM is not even the only creditor that is owed money by this municipality, The Komani sheriff has attached 41 municipal vehicles, including trucks and bakkies, to recover money for outstanding debts to creditors last year already! Vehicles and trucks that were used for delivering services to the people.

Honourable Speaker, I shudder to think where the money of the rate payers are really going, I am even more terrified, knowing that the former MEC appointed an administrator to this municipality in terms of which the National Education Health & Allied Workers’ Union asked the former MEC in September last year already to explain why he deployed controversial former Amathole municipal manager as Enoch Mgijima’s administrator.

Why Controversial? Because – he is the person that resigned as head of corporate services at the State Information Technology Agency (SITA) after he was charged with gross financial mismanagement and a settlement was reached. He did not stop there, he later attempt to force the Nelson Mandela Bay Council to hire him but that was stopped when the Port Elizabeth high court ruled in favour of the council, saying that he “lacked candour, had distorted the truth, [and] acted in bad faith,” when he did not declare that he left SITA under a cloud. This is the person that Department deemed fit to assist a failing municipality out of an adverse financial situation. It is no wonder, Honourable Speaker that this municipality is on its knees!

Let us talk about the beginning of the end for Enoch Mgijima Municipality, Honourable Speaker, since the ill-conceived amalgamation of this municipality in 2016, the Democratic Alliance has warned that the amalgamations were not only ill-conceived but implemented for the incorrect reasons, we warned that this will be to the detriment of the people, that the people will suffer as the municipality collapses.
Again, our warnings we ignored! Government argued that amalgamations must go ahead in order to fast-track service delivery and generate more revenue!

Today I ask, Honourable Speaker, where and how was service delivery fast-tracked? It was not fast-tracked! It was stifled, it came to an abrupt halt and people are now worse off then they were before! How much more revenue did you collect? You didn’t collect more, in fact this municipality is so far down a hole of debt that they will never be able to see the clear blue sky again. On of the residents said that:

“The situation in Enoch Mgijima is very dire and serious we are a municipality in crisis , we are a municipality that cannot sustain itself we are municipality that is not even not assisted by COGTA although COGTA was the one facilitated the merger”.

Honourable Speaker, it is time to face the cold hard facts! Enoch Mgijima Municipality is in distress, it is collapsing, service delivery is non-existent and the people are suffering!

The municipality should have made sure that it appointed the correct people in key positions, because this was not done, the council had to suspend the municipal manager over allegations he misappropriated funds, neglected his duties and misled the council on its financial position, liabilities and assets. Having the wrong people in key positions have led to more misery and the municipality only digging themselves deeper into a hole.

COGTA should never have appointed administrators under massive dark clouds of suspicion.
The amalgamation of Enoch Mgijima Municipality should never have been allowed as it was ill-conceived and done for the wrong reasons.

Funds should have been requested from National and Provincial Treasury in 2016 already when mayday signals were received that the Municipality is in distress and is sinking.

Lower the lifeboats, grab on to what you can, salvage what you must and hold on tight, because this ship is going down! Honourable Speaker, hear me load and clear, the only alternative left for the Enoch Mgijima Municipality is to dissolve it and start afresh.

Honourable Speaker, until the Department is not willing to take drastic measures, agree to disruptive change to save this municipality the DA WILL NOT support the report of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

Thank you.