Cllr. Irene Brussow called an emergency meeting which was held at the Chambers of the Mkhondo Local Municipality on Sunday, the 17th of September.
Ward 7 community members were invited to attent this meeting as important issues pertaining to Mkhondo were to be discussed. Cllr. Brussow started the meeting by stating that Eskom published a notice in the Excelsior News to inform the community of a load shedding schedule that will be implemented as from the 9th of October. According to Cllr. Brussow, the Eskom bill is currently R80 million.
She confirmed that the municipality defaulted on the arranged payments and mentioned that a meeting with Eskom was held on Thursday, the 14th of September. During this meeting, Eskom suggested that Mkhondo Local Municipality pay R16 million (the current amount due) by Wednesday, the 20th of September and another R20 million (arrears on the account) by Thursday, the 28th of September.
On Wednesday, the 27th of September, another meeting will be conducted where a signed payment plan agreement should be put into place stating how the municipality is planning to service the monthly current account. Furthermore, Cllr. Brussow advised the attendants that the July statement from Eskom was R15 million, of which R4 million were penalties charged due to exceeding the maximum demand.
According to Cllr. Brussow, there is no easy way to come up with a viable agreement as the municipality is facing serious financial problems. Mkhondo residents owe the municipality about R300 million on their debtors book. Of the R300 million, about R123 million in outstanding utility bills are allocated to Ward 7.
A suggestion was presented to ring fence all revenue (electricity sales) received and pay Eskom directly. At this stage, funds received are being distributed to other departments and not used for the Eskom account. A community member also asked why the municipal plantations are being felled and if the funds received will go towards paying the Eskom bill. Cllr. Brussow confirmed this by saying that some of the funds were indeed used to pay the outstanding Eskom account.
The meeting went on with the second item on the agenda – crime and safety in Mkhondo. Cllr. Brussow emphasized the fact that crime is increasing in Mkhondo and residents need to be vigilant and cautious at all times. Residents complained that in case of an emergency, the police are not available and if you do get hold of them, they will inform you that they don’t have vehicles available.
A resident also mentioned that if you have to travel to a local grocery store, you will often find a SAPS vehicle there, so why do they never have vehicles or staff available to assist in a crisis situation? Cllr. Brussow asked the community members to take down the new number for the SAPS as the charge office’s number has changed. Please keep the following number for future reference: 072 286 8875.
Residents also complained about the lack of visible policing in Mkhondo. You will often see them driving around but visible patrolling is often absent. It was confirmed that the local SAPS office are short staffed and that the office does not have enough vehicles. Sometimes, the SAPS vehicles are being used to transport staff members to and from work as they do not have other transport arrangements.
Cllr. Brussow mentioned that the dense vegetation behind the parking area at Mall@ Mfula is creating the perfect hide-out for criminals. She confirmed with Mr Vusi Dube, from the Solid Waste department that the area will be cleaned up. One community member asked Cllr. Brussow about the building next to the SASSA office, on the corner of Kruger – and Joubert Streets.
This building was declared unsafe for business by Public Works and was supposed to be demolished a long time ago. Apparently, the department does not have the funds to take the building down. It was also confirmed that criminal activities are taking place there. Reports of rapes and drug dealings have been received. The third issue on the agenda was the use of Mkhondo’s public parks. Cllr. Brussow stated that this is a sensitive, yet enormous issue as residents are frustrated with the illegal activities that are currently happening at the parks.
The Excelsior News reported on the public parks on numerous occasions but it seems that the matter is worsening each passing weekend. A guesthouse owner, residing close to one of the parks informed the community members that he is currently busy with a claim against the Mkhondo Local Municipality regarding loss of income.
Due to the constant noise and public consumption of alcohol in the park, he is losing customers as they feel unsafe to stay at the guesthouse, which in return, causes him a loss of income. The question is, should we wait until someone gets seriously injured or dies as a result of the law not being enforced at the public parks?
The parks are there for the use of law abiding citizens and the bylaw boards should be erected again. According to Cllr. Brussow, the Bylaws of Mkhondo are not gazetted but a proposal will be given to the Council. Mr Dlamini, a resident from ward 7 raised his concern pertaining to this subject and said that it is truly upsetting to drive into town and see how the rubbish is scattered everywhere.
It was also added that the community are requesting the municipality to replace the fencing of the parks as this problem is spiraling out of control. Furthermore, the issue pertaining to RDP (Reconstruction and Development Programme) housing caused an outburst where concerned community members raised their voices against this initiative.
The governmental proceedings of erecting RDP houses, just outside of town on the R543 (heading to Mahamba), have been set in motion, this will decrease the value of their properties tremendously. Cllr Brussow stated that the matter is still under discussion and feedback will be provided at a later stage.