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Mangaung ordered to disband metro police

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Staff Reporter

The Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality has been ordered to dissolve its metro police service and to institute disciplinary procedures against officials who played a role in establishing the law-enforcement agency.

In a strongly worded letter, national treasury deputy director-general for intergovernmental relations Malijeng Ngqaleni ordered that any official involved in the process of setting up the metro police service, including members of the mayoral committee, should be subjected to a disciplinary process.

The letter, dated October 14, 2021, was sent to Mangaung acting city manager Sello More and copied to Free State Premier Sefora Ntombela, Treasury MEC Gadija Brown, Cooperative Governance MEC Mxolisi Dukwana as well as the provincial office of the Auditor General.

It ordered an immediate stop to all work relating to the establishment of the metro police.

More was also ordered to furnish national treasury with all documentation indicating the procedures followed.

“The national treasury has been consistent in its advice to the city that the metro police service should not be a priority, given its precarious financial and service delivery performance,” said Ngqaleni in the letter.

“This advice was shared with the city as early as when the metro announced the creation of chief of police position, and the subsequent appointment thereof and then, when this explicit disapproval was ignored, it was followed with same advice in every formal annual budget benchmark assessment and the mid-year budget and performance assessments since the 2017 financial year.”

Ngqaleni said national treasury cautioned the city over the years to manage its expenditure and prioritise basic service delivery of water, sanitation and waste management but the advice was largely ignored.

She said the municipality’s attitude largely contributed to the city then being placed under administration for financial performance challenges.

“The advice was always clear from the national treasury, and I want to re-iterate it here again to you as the newly appointed acting city manager that the establishment of the Mangaung Metro Police Service will exacerbate the current financial challenges and will undermine the purpose of the approved mandatory financial recovery plan.

“The city is failing to control its operating expenditure, poor revenue collection and failure in corporate governance,” she said.

Ngqaleni said even though the city is currently under administration, it has not demonstrated any improvement in the management of its operating budget, hence the need for the municipality to dedicate more time and effort towards the implementation of the financial recovery plan before committing to new projects that will burden the city financially.

“The message is simple: national treasury does not support the establishment of the metro police service at this stage and believes it to be not in support of the implementation of the Mandatory Financial Recovery Plan,” she said, adding the city needs a comprehensive, rigorous and fully costed organisational design that has been reviewed to be a best fit for a metro of its size and with its financial challenges.

Ngqaleni expressed disappointment that over the past two years of intervention, the national treasury team made a number of attempts to reach out to the city to ensure the creation of such a reviewed organisational design but was met with “what can only be explained as deliberate delays by officials”.

She pointed out that even Deputy President David Mabuza in his capacity as head of government business also instructed that all activities associated with the metro police service be stopped with immediate effect.

“. . . you are, as the acting accounting officer, directed to institute disciplinary procedures against everyone involved in this process including members of the mayoral committee in terms of the Municipal Finance Management Act, 2003 (Act No. 56 of 2003).

“Secondly, no payments nor any additions to the organisational establishments must be allowed under any circumstances.

“This letter serves to again (implore) you as the accounting officer of the metro to supply national treasury with all memorandums and reports . . . served at council which were the basis for the decision to establish the metro police.

“It is also critical that the said documents include the decision-making process on how the councillors of the metro voted on this item,” stated the letter.

This record, said Ngqaleni, will assist national treasury to have a clear picture of who is directly responsible for the decision to set up the metro police and who is liable for the expenditure incurred by the municipality.

She said in the event the Auditor General finds this expenditure fruitless and wasteful, the necessary recovery process should be effected.

“You are hereby advised to take the necessary steps to advise council to rescind this ill-advised decision as soon as practically possible and to timeously advise national treasury of the position of the metro within the next 14 days,” she ordered.

The directive, according to Ngqaleni, is not negotiable.

Civic organisation Mangaung Concerned Community (MCC) has welcomed national treasury’s decision to order the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality to abort the establishment of the metro police.

MCC spokesperson Temba Zweni told The Free Stater by telephone that they were relieved the government had finally taken steps to stop the controversial establishment of the metro police.

“We were pleasantly surprised,” said Zweni. “We were beginning to lose hope . . . but at least, reading that letter, it shows that government is serious about accountability.”

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Ngwathe pays Eskom to fix damaged line

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BLACKOUT . . . The Ngwathe electrical network tripped on Friday and damaged Eskom’s equipment due to overloading

Ngwathe Local Municipality in the northern Free State has paid R1.1-million to Eskom so it can repair damages to the power line in the area caused by overloading.

Eskom provincial spokesperson Stefanie Jansen van Rensburg said in a statement the payment was made on Monday morning and work to restore supplies to Parys and Vredefort has started.

“Repairs to the Eskom equipment will now commence,” said Van Rensburg.

“Based on the assessments of the damage, supply to Ngwathe should be restored by midnight tonight,” she added.

The spokesperson however said the initial repairs were focusing on the hot connections and will only be temporary to assist communities.

Another outage will be scheduled to repair the transformer bushings that were also damaged during the overloading incident.

The Ngwathe electrical network tripped on Friday and damaged Eskom’s equipment due to overloading.

“Since 2018, Eskom has warned Ngwathe that their continued exceedance of their Notified Maximum Demand (NMD) – the contracted amount of electricity supplied by Eskom to the Municipality – will eventually result in damage to the Eskom network and that the municipality needs to apply for an upgrade in their NMD.

“In August 2021 and in April 2022, Eskom informed the municipality that any damage to the Eskom network that is caused by the municipality’s negligence, will be at the municipality’s cost.

“The municipality agreed to this condition and, although they were well informed and aware of the risks, they did not take the necessary precautions or made sufficient efforts to upgrade their NMD,” Van Rensburg explained.

Following the incident, Eskom insisted on the municipality making an upfront payment as it is one of the municipalities in the province sitting with a huge debt to the national power utility.

As at end June, Ngwathe’s overdue debt to Eskom totalled R1.89 billion.

Eskom says this debt continues to grow as current accounts are not paid in full.

“Ngwathe’s non-adherence to payment conditions and negligence in protecting the power system, jeopardises Eskom’s financial sustainability as well as the security of supply to the residents of towns such as Parys and Vredefort.

“Supply to Ngwathe will be restored to the capacity as per the contracted NMD.

“Risks of overloading and consequent damage remain, and it is imperative that the municipality invests in upgrading its supply,” according to the power company. – Staff Reporter

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Mangaung electricity tariffs up

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POWER TARIFFS UP . . . Local power distributor Centlec has hiked electricity charges

Electricity tariffs in Mangaung have gone up by 7.47 percent.

In a statement released on Thursday night, local power distributor Centlec said the increase was due to come into effect at midnight on July 1 following approval by the National Electricity Regulator of South Africa.

The increase will cover the period July 1, 2022 to June 30, 2023.

“A guideline increase of 7.47 percent on electricity tariffs for Centlec was therefore approved with effect from the 1st of July 2022 for the 2022/23 financial year,” read part of the brief statement.

It said a more detailed outline of the increases will be announced soon. – Staff Reporter

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CUT students arrested for protesting against exams

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DISTURBANCE AT CAMPUS . . . Five students protesting against exams at the Central University of Technology in Bloemfontein have been arrested

Police have arrested five students from the Central University of Technology (CUT) for public violence after they embarked on an unsanctioned protest against the institution’s decision to have the mid-year exams conducted in person at its two campuses in Bloemfontein and Welkom starting this Thursday.

The exams are set to run until July 20.

The fracas follows an announcement by CUT acting vice-chancellor and principal Professor Alfred Ngowi on Wednesday in which he stated the exams would take place physically at the two campuses as scheduled.

Ngowi said a detailed discussion about online exams at the Welkom campus concluded that it would not be feasible to conduct online exams because circumstances have changed regarding the COVID-19 restrictions and that it was also against the policy of the university.

“CUT is a full-contact institution and not a distance learning institution and therefore does not have the authority to accredit examinations that are not done under CUT’s status as a full-contact institution,” said Ngowin in a recorded video.

Ngowi told the students that academic assessment is one of the important building blocks of their qualifications.

He warned the students against disrupting the exams saying they would face disciplinary action as such action will be illegal.

“The unreliability of the power supply may have unintended disruptive effects,” he said.

“The COVID-19 restrictions which necessitated virtual classes and virtual assessments have all been suspended and the various accrediting bodies to which CUT is affiliated may not accredit online assessments.

“Therefore, we will proceed with physical assessments.

“Management has made all necessary preparations for the smooth running of the mid-year assessments, which have been communicated to all students.

“Therefore, any student who plans to disrupt the physical examinations on our campuses must be aware of the legal and disciplinary consequences.

“In addition, the CUT management has put several measures in place to protect the constitutional rights of all our students who are prepared for and prefer to sit for physical assessments.

“Students must be aware that any disruptions of the planned and scheduled assessments are illegal and unlawful, and students who act outside the law will have to face the consequences of their actions.

“Students further need to note that failing the upcoming academic assessments will directly impact their NSFAS funding status.

“No further funding will be available to NSFAS-funded students who fail the assessments or fail to take the upcoming assessments.”

But, in a statement, members of the South African Student Congress (SASCO) at the university argued that since all assessments had taken place online due to the COVID-19 restrictions, “it is only normal that the exams take place online as well”.

SASCO also argued that some students had not received their allowances from the National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS) and it would therefore be impossible for them to write their exams in a physical setting.

But Ngowi addressed the matter earlier in the same video: “As previously communicated through the Student Representative Council, NSFAS-funded students who still have unresolved challenges with their accommodation are encouraged to make written submissions to the relevant faculty deans in that regard.”

Park Road police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Thabo Covane said members of Public Order Police Unit arrested five male students for public violence at the CUT’s Bloemfontein campus on Thursday morning.

He said the group of protesting students was warned by the operational commander to disperse within a given time as they were contravening the conditions stipulated in an issued court order but refused to do so.

“The protesting students became violent and started throwing stones and bottles at the police and the security officers,” said Covane.

“The police used stun grenades to disperse the crowd. The other group ran into King Edward Street and blocked traffic by placing stones on the road.

“Police then arrested the five students with ages ranging from 18 to 22 years.”

The arrested students are expected to appear in the Bloemfontein Magistrates Court on Monday facing charges of public violence and contravening a court order. – Staff Reporter

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