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Free State government to dispose of its properties



Staff Reporter

The Free State provincial government is planning to sell over 60 vacant properties in the next few months as it seeks to consolidate its property portfolio and make it easier to manage.

Public Works, Infrastructure and Human Settlements MEC Motshidisi Koloi said in her budget vote speech delivered on Friday at Teto Secondary School in Welkom that the properties which are located across the province will be advertised at the beginning of the financial year.

“The department plans to dispose of 68 vacant sites and 14 plots,” said Koloi in her R1.7 billion budget speech.

The properties are situated in Clocolan, Trompsburg, Charlesville, Wepener, Edenburg, Smithfield, Bloemfontein, Botshabelo, Thaba Nchu, Hertzogville, Odendaalsrus, Frankfort, Heilbron, Koppies, Orangeville, Kroonstad and Winburg.

“These vacant sites will be advertised during the first quarter of the 2021/22 financial year,” she added.

The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure is the custodian of provincially owned properties and is responsible for maintaining this property portfolio which contributes towards the investment value and revenue potential of the province.

The register, according to Koloi, currently has a total of 4 872 immovable assets worth R11.1 billion.

The department will also audit its property portfolio over the next three years in order to identify other properties, including houses, which will be disposed of.

Koloi also said 95 farms owned by the provincial government, which include resorts, will also be made available for the black majority for the production of agricultural products.

Turning to the issue of rates and taxes owed by government departments to local municipalities, the MEC said they have made strides towards settling their bills in the face of budget cuts.

“Despite the fiscal constraints and the recurring shortfall on our budget for municipalities, a total amount of R303 million has been paid to municipalities for water and electricity and R436 million has been paid for municipal rates and taxes in the current financial year,” she said.

Of these amounts, Koloi said R256 million was paid to Mangaung Metro; R71 million to Centlec; R139 million to Matjhabeng and R83 million to Maluti-a-Phofung Local Municipality.

For the 2021/22 financial year, a total of R263.1 million is budgeted for municipal services and R458.5 million for rates and taxes.

Mangaung Metro, Centlec, Matjhabeng and Maluti-a-Phofung remain the biggest beneficiaries of this budget.

Over the years, some municipalities have struggled to meet their obligations to suppliers and service providers claiming several government departments owed them millions in outstanding rates and taxes.

Meanwhile, the department is expected to facilitate the creation of 56 000 work opportunities across all spheres of the provincial government in the new financial year under the Expanded Public Works Programme.


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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