By TUSANI MNYANDU
Members of the National Council of Provinces (NCoP) visited Makana Local Municipality on Wednesday 28 October, to hear about the challenges facing the municipality and to inspect some of the infrastructural projects undertaken by the council. The previous day, the delegation had visited Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.
The NCoP is this week travelling the length and breadth of the country, visiting different municipalities in what is called the NCoP 2020 Provincial week. The NCOP conducts Provincial Visits twice a year. The delegation to the Eastern Cape consisted of four members – Zukiswa Ncitha, Mlindi Nhanha, Zolani Mkiva and Nokuzola Ndongeni, who led the delegation. Present also were members of the Eastern Cape provincial legislature, Co-operative Governance in the province and a representative from the office of the MEC.
Makana Local Municipality officials, led by Mayor Mzukisi Mphahlwa, presented a report on the municipal administration and finance of the local authority. The report highlighted the municipality’s challenges. Chief among these, said Mpahlwa, was the high level of litigation against the municipality.
“Makana is the most litigated municipality in the country,” said Mphahlwa. He said he would prefer to engage with the litigants to achieve out of court settlements. Sewerage management and the water crisis also featured high among the bottlenecks that are hampering the progress of the Creative City.
The report also recorded victories that the municipality has registered. These include the filling of key posts, such as those of the Municipal Manager and Chief Financial Officer, as well as senior posts in the internal audit department. The municipal leadership was hopeful that these efforts would assist in moving the municipality from a disclaimer audit opinion from the Auditor-General to a better one, the municipal manager told the delegation. The reduction of the Eskom debt and the settlement of the amount owing to the Auditor General was lauded and so was the return of municipal grants by the district municipality.
Some members of the delegation described the report as detailed and thorough; others criticised it for falling short in responding to the new normal, namely, living with the Covid-19 pandemic. Nhanha, who is a resident of Makhanda and a former Councillor in Makana, said he was familiar with issues of the municipality.
“The report was obviously rosy and sites carefully selected,” Nhanha said. “I found there was considerable progress, but [the report]also raised areas they needed to either change or improve. They have lots of work ahead of them,” concluded the NCoP member.
After three hours of engaging with the report, the NCoP delegation proceeded to the James Kleyhans water treatment works 20km north-east of Makhanda. The acting director for Infrastructure Services, Gubevu Maduna showed the delegation around the plant. He indicated that the project was on phase two and it is expected to be finished in a year. He said Covid-19 had posed a serious challenge to the project, resulting in delays. The project is funded by the Department of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation and Amatola Water Is the implementing agent.
The delegation also inspected a construction site leading to the Mayfield wastewater plant before proceeding to the Belmont Valley Wastewater treatment plant. Although the plant boasts a newly erected electric fence, it is in a dilapidated state. Maduna admitted that according to the latest technical report, it would cost more to maintain the plant than building a new one from scratch.
“At some point, we even considered switching off the electricity: the plant uses a lot of electricity, yet it doesn’t operate at the level it is supposed to be operating on.”