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HOD suspended over collapsed road projects

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Staff Reporter

The head of department (HOD) for Police, Roads and Transport in the Free State, Sipho Mtakati, has been put on precautionary suspension for a period of 60 days.

Premier Sisi Ntombela announced in a statement released on Thursday that Mosa Tlali will stand in as the acting HOD over the two-month period.

Her spokesperson Sello Pietersen told The Free Stater by telephone that the suspension is to make way for an internal investigation into the construction of some major roads which remain unfinished.

“His suspension is to allow for an internal investigation into the incomplete main roads in the province whose timeline has long elapsed,” said Pietersen.

He would however not mention the roads concerned saying the information remains sensitive as the investigation is still under way.

Pietersen said some of the roads had become death traps due to their incomplete state and it made it difficult to sell the province as a good destination for business.

“If you drive around the province, some of the main roads are in a very bad state and may cause unnecessary loss of life,” he said.

“It’s a decision of the provincial government to have value for money on its projects, hence an investigation of this nature.”

A source close to the matter who preferred not to be named said Ntombela told Mtakati in the letter of suspension that she had decided to suspend him because of the negative reports she had received on five particular roads.

The letter, according to the source, does not mention the roads either, but the premier is said to have told Mtakati that the collapsing of the five major road projects had a dire impact on the province.

“As head of department, you are ultimately responsible to ensure that once contractors have been appointed to repair an identified road which poses a danger to the public travelling on it, that the project is properly managed to its logical conclusion and that government funds are appropriately,” Ntombela is said to have written to Mtakati.

The source said Mtakati is also told in the letter that his alleged failure to ensure that these road projects were properly managed could be regarded as serious misconduct.

Farmers, taxi operators and other businesspeople have in the past complained about the poor state of the roads in the province.

In March, farmers and taxi drivers blocked a road in Ficksburg, demanding that the provincial government fix the roads which they said were in a deplorable state.

The protesters described the R26 road as “life threatening” and that it was becoming impossible to farm in the area.

Meanwhile, Ntombela has appointed Social Development MEC Mamiki Qabathe as the acting MEC for Police, Roads and Transport.

The incumbent, Sam Mashinini is said to be on sick leave.

Qabathe assumed the acting role from yesterday and will end on June 18.

Meanwhile, provincial treasury HOD Godfrey Mahlatsi has been appointed the acting HOD for the Department of Health following the resignation of Dr David Motau to pursue other interests.

Masechaba Modise will replace him as the acting head for provincial treasury.

Announcing the changes, the premier said: “All these changes are meant to positively enhance the administration of the Free State provincial government. I have no doubt that all the individuals will bring positive energy into their new responsibilities and help us build the Free State we want.”

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

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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

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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

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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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