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Free State slashes 2021/22 budget by R400 million



Staff Reporter

The Free State government has slashed its budget for the 2021/22 financial year by R400 million, as the province grapples to recover from an economic recession worsened by the coronavirus pandemic.

Unveiling the province’s spending plans on Tuesday, Finance MEC Gadija Brown said the reduction had been necessitated by fiscal reforms that South Africa was implementing to address huge budget deficits and spiralling government debt.

“As I have indicated . . . the fiscal reforms brought by the drive to stabilise budget deficit and government debt have affected our fiscal framework significantly,” she said in her budget speech.

“The better days are gone and we, therefore, cannot afford to do things the same way as we did in the past.”

As a result of the reduction, education will in 2021/22 get an allocation of R15.475 billion, which is R144 million or less than what the sector received in the previous financial year.

Health has also not been spared and will receive R12.135 billion compared to R12.477 billion in 2020/21.

However, amid the budgetary constraints, some departments – including human settlements; public works; agriculture; and police, roads and transport – will have slightly more than they were allocated last time.

The MEC emphasised the need for transparency and accountability in utilizing the limited resources which she said should be channeled towards addressing the challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment.

“The challenges of budget constraints we face today provide an opportune time for us to keep on strengthening and institutionalising the principles of transparency, accountability, responsibility, efficiency and effectiveness in the utilisation of limited public resources,” she said.

Brown bemoaned the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on the Free State economy, which was already in decline since 2018.

“The Free State economy has been forbidding, recording three consecutive declines in 2018, 2019 and 2020,” she said.

“The total value of the Free State’s economy was estimated at R160.8 billion in 2019 . . . due to the devastating impact of COVID-19, the Free State economy is projected to have contracted by a momentous 6.8 percent in 2020 – decreasing the value of the economy to approximately R149.8 billion.

“All sectors of the provincial economy contracted during the hard lockdown, except for agriculture, which benefitted from favourable weather conditions and large sections of the industry remaining open during the national lockdown.

“The provincial economy is, however, projected to recover and grow by 2.8 percent in 2021.”

Free State 2021/22 provincial budget allocations at a glance:

  • Education – R15.475 billion
  • Health – R12.135 billion
  • Social Development – R1.442 billion
  • Sports, Arts, Culture and Recreation – R638.523 million
  • Human Settlements – R1.256 billion
  • Public Works – R1.739 billion
  • Police, Roads and Transport – R2.882 billion
  • Agriculture and Rural Development – R783.067 million
  • Economic, Small Business Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs – R604.792 million
  • Legislature – R258.823 million
  • Office of the Premier – R662.675 million
  • Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs – R416.598 million
  • Provincial Treasury – R331.491 million


Parts of Free State may not have power for up to three weeks



PROLONGED BLACKOUT LOOMS . . . Eskom says consumers in some parts of the Free State may not have electricity for up to three weeks

Eskom has warned consumers in the south-eastern Free State that they may not have electricity for up to three weeks due to voltage constraints on the network feeding the Melkspruit Substation.

The power failure resulted in electricity users in Zastron, Rouxville and Smithfield as well as those fed directly by Eskom on the RVZ and RVS 22 kV lines experiencing outages over the past weekend.

Eskom’s spokesperson in the Free State, Stefanie Jansen van Rensburg, said the problem may persist until major work on a line from the Northern Cape is completed.

“The voltage constraint on the network will persist until construction of structures on the Ruigtevallei-Valleydora 132 kV line in the Northern Cape is completed,” said Van Rensburg as she urged consumers to remain patient while the supply challenge is addressed.

“Free State teams are currently assisting to speed up the process. It is however expected that work will take two to three weeks to complete.”

“In the meantime, electricity users are urged to use electricity sparingly, especially during the morning and evening peak hours, to prevent trips,” she added.

South Africa has been experiencing rolling blackouts in recent weeks due to what Eskom has described a “continued shortage of generation capacity”.

On Sunday, the national power utility said in a separate statement it had about 3 028 megawatts on planned maintenance, while another 14 992 megawatts of capacity were unavailable due to breakdowns.

While the loadshedding is meant to ease pressure on the national grid and avoid a total collapse of the system, the practice has reportedly caused damage on some lines when power is switched back on.

Eskom has always said loadshedding is implemented only as a last resort to protect the national grid and promised to limit the implementation of loadshedding to the evening peak in order to limit the impact of the capacity shortages on the public. – Staff Reporter

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Minister shuts down troubled Free State water supplier



MOVE GAZETTED . . . Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu has disestablished Sedibeng Water

Staff and key assets from the embattled Sedibeng Water Board are set to be transferred to the Bloemwater and Magalies water boards following the gazetting of the move by Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu last week.

The department’s spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau, said in a statement the development is in line with the minister’s commitment to review the country’s water boards to enable them to perform optimally while enhancing the delivery of water to municipalities and ultimately to households.

The decision to disestablish Sedibeng Water – which served Matjhabeng, Masilonyana and Nala local municipalities, among others – means its staff, assets and liabilities will be absorbed by Bloemwater in the Free State and Magalies in Gauteng.

The move, according to Ratau, was initiated by the minister following his working sessions with provincial governments, various water services authorities and water boards regarding issues of governance, financial viability as well as accountability and broader service delivery issues after taking office in August last year.

“The review is based on considerations of financial sustainability, servicing areas that are not currently serviced and is also intended to address institutional confusion caused by having multiple water boards serving the same area,” said Ratau.

“The disestablishment of Sedibeng Water is in accordance with section 28 of the Water Services Act of 1997 which affords Minister Mchunu the authority to disestablish a water board.

“The gazette was published on Friday, 20 May 2022 and will remain open to the public for a period of 40 days.

“Members of the public and all interested parties are invited to make comments in writing on the disestablishment of the board.”

The department said it will ensure there is smooth transition of the disestablishment and that water service provision to communities is not affected.

Based in Bothaville, Sedibeng Water was established to, among others, treat wastewater and supply potable water in a viabile and sustainable manner.

However, in recent years, some of the municipalities served by the water board have struggled over the years to pay on time for the bulk water supplies even though residents have argued that they pay their monthly bills on time.

At the end of March this year, Sedibeng reportedly owed its service providers over R5-billion as it was struggling to secure payment from several municipalities. – Staff Reporter

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Mangaung warns residents to brace for heavy rainfall



DISRUPTIVE DOWNPOUR LOOMING . . . Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has warned heavy rainfall is expected to pound the capital

The Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has warned residents in and around the Free State capital to brace for heavy rainfall that could cause flooding this Friday.

The municipality is urging drivers to take extra caution by reducing speed and switching their headlights on, while pedestrians are being reminded to be careful when crossing the road and to avoid crossing rivers and streams where water is above the ankles.

“Residents of Mangaung Metro, particularly in the former Naledi region, are urged to be cautious on the road and in their homes as the South African Weather Service has issued an impact-based warning . . . for possible disruptive rainfall,” the metro said in a statement.

“This warning is valid for Friday, 20 May 2022 until Saturday, 21 May 2022.”

“Heavy rains are also predicted in Bloemfontein on Friday,” it added.

“Localised flooding can be expected in susceptible low-lying areas, roads, formal/informal settlements and bridges.” – Staff Reporter

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