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Q&A: ‘We’re not happy . . . we’ll be watching them closely’

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Organisers of the Mangaung shutdown which brought Bloemfontein to a complete standstill in May over service delivery and administrative issues in the city, the Mangaung Concerned Community (MCC), say they are not happy with the way the Free State capital has addressed their demands because there seems to be a deliberate ploy to derail all efforts to bring better service delivery and management to the city. MCC spokesperson Themba Zweni told The Free Stater they want to see a marked improvement in administration and municipal finances in the coming five years. Excerpts:

The MCC had a detailed list of demands when it brought the city of Bloemfontein to a complete halt in May. Are you happy with the way the municipality has addressed your concerns?

No, we are not happy. The challenge with Mangaung is that you take two steps forward, and then you take four steps backwards. You will remember that we were engaged in talks with the Mangaung municipality and everything was going very well. We even had some agreements regarding the issues we raised. We were having four primary demands, namely the lack of land, poor service delivery, lack of employment opportunities and lack of business opportunities. We have agreements on those issues with the municipality on how we will progress. But, unfortunately, the establishment of the metro police threw spanners into the works. We ended up focusing more on the establishment of the metro police instead of the issues at hand. But now that the establishment of the metro police has been stopped, we are resuming the talks we had initially. Of course, we have seen some work being done on the issue of service delivery but we are not happy.

What particular issues from your initial demands are you not happy with?

Service delivery remains our major concern. Lack of employment opportunities remains a problem too. Yes, our local guys are getting sub-contracts and other business opportunities, but we are not yet there where we can say the economy of the city belongs to the residents of the city. We have some instances that contractors are appointed but our local guys are not given opportunities there. We want local businesses to be included, so that the city can grow.

If I can take you back to the issue of metro police, were you taken by surprise at its establishment or you were informed of the plan?

No, we were not. You see, that’s why I was saying you make progress, then suddenly you see someone taking us back. We have even gone to the extent of engaging the ANC deputy president (David Mabuza) about it. There is a particular gentleman who must be removed from the discussions. We have been raising the issue even when we started engaging with the premier of the province (Sisi Ntombela). He may not be officially part of the negotiations right now, but things could change because of his role behind closed doors. The issue of the metro police wasn’t there until August when they started saying ‘we are launching the metro police’. This was a resolution of 2012. It caught us by surprise and we couldn’t understand the sudden rush. Our question was very simple. We told them we had no objection to the establishment of the metro police, but why the rush?

And for you to say that, were you suspecting something, maybe in the form of misuse of funds or procedure not being followed?

We have our own suspicions which we still hold up to now. We prefer to leave it at that point for now. We also suspect that, because people realised the progress we were making, they also wanted to ensure that we were defocused. Some people didn’t want us to move forward.  

The Mangaung shutdown had a major impact on the city. No one expected it to be that effective. Now the country is heading to local government elections, yet you still say you are not happy with how things have gone. What should people consider when they go to vote?

I cannot say much at this point. We are planning to release a statement in the next few days, where we are advising community members on what to consider when voting for pollical parties. I wouldn’t want to pre-empt it. We are still of the view that all political parties were complicit to what happened in the city. They could have done much more but, unfortunately, they did not. So, we will be talking to our members and residents in general about what to consider when voting. Things like priorities and other issues.

Is the MCC supporting any candidates in the local government elections?

The MCC is not supporting any candidate. The MCC is not contesting the elections. But the MCC would encourage residents to make wise choices and we would want to hold every person who gets elected accountable.

You feel the political parties in Mangaung council were somehow complicit in that they failed to act order to save the city, so how do you hope to work with these parties after the elections?

Like I said, we will be releasing something in the next few days. We will be outlining some of our conditions to work with any person who wants to become a public representative. We will be making it very clear to everyone that what happened in the last five years will not happen again. We will be watching them quite closely.

Without pre-empting your statement, what would you like to see happening in the city in the next five years?

The first thing will be administrative stability in the municipality. The second one will be proper financial management. We believe once you have those in place, you will be able to get everything going. We are actually encouraging residents to focus more on municipal processes because . . . once the municipal administration and the politicians start working on something, they cannot just change. They should always engage the community.

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Botticelli

    October 18, 2021 at 11:04 am

    We want a better future for our children,this thing of money misusing should come to an end cus we r tired of hunger pain

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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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