The Eastern Cape’s Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality was featured in a segment of Carte Blanche on Sunday night, and the revelations shocked and saddened many viewers, who shared their reactions.
The main town used to be called Queenstown and is now Komani. According to the show, service delivery took a nosedive after a number of smaller municipalities were amalgamated to form Enoch Mgijima in 2016.
The auditor-general declared he could not make any findings on the municipality, with about 68,000 residents, since few to no financial records have been kept for it since its amalgamation.
Carte Blanche discovered that large parts of the town have been left without electricity after the power network failed to be maintained for 15 years; rubbish was strewn all over; unemployment was sky high; bones and animal bodies were left rotting outside; the river was in a disgusting state; raw sewage overflowed in the township; and potholes were a mainstay of streets that had few working traffic lights.
The electricity transformers exploded in June due to their dilapidation, though the municipality tried to blame it on people switching on too many of their appliances at the same time.
Because of the power woes, the water supply became non-existent in some areas, it was also reported in June.
According to councillors the show’s long-time host Derek Watts spoke to, the town’s ANC-led municipality undercollected revenue by tens of millions and has debts of at least R85 million. Some people claimed they last received a municipal bill last year.
Municipal equipment, including waste removal trucks and earth-moving maintenance machines, bakkies and more had to be auctioned to recover some debts after the municipality didn’t defend itself in court against creditors and had a default judgment made against it.
Perhaps most scandalously, the municipal manager, Chris Magwangqana, spent R90,000 on KFC as “catering” within a few days of his appointment in January, which he defended to Watts as not being significant because the municipality had spent more money on service delivery.
However, many councillors said the town’s many multimillion-rand projects, such as a taxi rank for R30 million, were either never finished or ended up becoming white elephants.
Magwangqana is the same man who was embroiled in a R631 million toilet scandal in Amatole in 2015, where 66,000 toilets were meant to be built but either weren’t or were built so badly that none of them was usable.
An audit report reportedly recommended criminal and disciplinary action be brought against Magwangqana; the Hawks are understood to still be investigating.
The same cash-strapped municipality’s mayor, Nokuzola Tolashe, justified spending R300,000 on a PR exercise to talk to the community because she said it would be important to explain to them what good work their local government was doing.
It turned out she was also the beneficiary of a hired Volvo SUV at a cost of R78,000 a month because the mayoral car was “in for repairs”. It had been in for repairs for at least the past six months, it emerged.
She rated her performance as mayor as eight out of 10 when asked to score herself.
She told Watts she felt the future of her municipality was bright and told him to come back in six months to be pleasantly surprised by their progress in turning things around.
Many on Twitter, however, weren’t feeling too optimistic about the prospects.