The ANC-run Emfuleni local municipality in Gauteng is in trouble again – this time almost all of its vehicle fleet has been repossessed by a service provider who was not paid its dues by the council.
Apparently the municipality defaulted on payments on vehicles leased from Bidvest, and the company decided to repossess them. The vehicles included essential services vehicles, including vehicles belonging to the traffic, fire, water and sanitation and electricity departments, according to Ward 5 DA councillor Phillip Nothnagel.
It is not the first time the municipality finds itself in trouble this year. Last month Eskom issued a notice that it intended to start phasing in scheduled power interruptions in municipality after it failed to adhere to an agreement with Eskom regarding its repayment plan. By that time its monthly debt to Eskom had increased by R200 million and the situation prompted Eskom to cut off power supply from 6 August 2018.
According to DA Gauteng shadow MEC for finance Adriana Randall, Eskom said the provincial government refused to accept the payment plan proposed by the power utility.
Due to its failures, the municipality was placed under partial administration, prompting mayor Jacob Khawe to resign in protest after being in office for only six months. Khawe was subsequently elected ANC Gauteng provincial secretary last month.
The Emfuleni municipality is comprised of the towns of Vereeniging and Vanderbijlpark.
Outa’s executive director on local governance, Dr Makhosi Khoza, said this came as no surprise.
“Outa understands that [the repossession] includes vehicles from the traffic, water and electricity departments and fire engines and that they were repossessed by Bidvest, from whom they were leased. Outa believes that Emfuleni should now be dissolved.”
She said the municipality’s laxity was against National Treasury regulations that stipulated that service providers must be paid within 30 days of issuing an invoice. Emfuleni municipality has also not honoured its financial obligations to Eskom, Rand Water and many other service providers.
Khoza condemned the municipality for failing to pay and asked for the inclusion of civil society and the community involvement in the governance of municipalities, as provided by law.
As a result of its administrative blunders and failures, the municipality was placed under section 139 of the constitution, which provides for the dissolution of a municipality.
Premier David Makhura said they would take over financial control of the cash-strapped municipality. He also announced a comprehensive intervention plan in line with section 139 to ensure minimum standards of service delivery were met and a financial recovery plan was implemented.
Since 1994, the section has been applied in several municipalities with no evident capacity to deliver services and the constitution provides for the appointment of an interim administrator to run the affairs of the affected municipality.
“The councillors in Emfuleni municipality have failed to fulfil their electoral mandate. Allow communities and civil society to play a part in rescuing the collapsed Emfuleni municipality,” Khoza said.
“When all is said and done, it is the communities that suffer when municipal services are not delivered or fail.
She urged Co-operative Goverance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize to afford Outa the opportunity to meet with him to find sustainable municipal solutions.
“He has repeatedly ignored the community and civil society in the resolution of municipal problems,” she said.
In June, Gauteng co-operative governance MEC Uhuru Moiloa revealed in written questions from the DA in the legislature that the Emfuleni municipality had wasted more than R60 million on the purchasing of dustbins, grass cutting and cleaning campaigns.
“In our view this is a highly inflated price tag,” said DA Gauteng MPL and Emfuleni North constituency head Kingsol Chabalala.
The DA’s Adriana Randall said that despite the municipality having recently been placed under section 139 administration, the intervention had come too late and that its recovery plan was yet to be implemented.
Randall said Gauteng finance MEC Barbara Creecy had informed her that a recovery plan for Emfuleni had been formulated and was currently sitting with Treasury for approval. She said that process could take up to six months.
Randall said former mayor Khawe’s deployment to Emfuleni had had no impact on turning the municipality’s desperate situation around.
“The ANC provincial government has dragged its feet on this issue and waited until the last moment to attempt a half-hearted rescue. The DA has for many years warned the provincial government that Emfuleni is a ticking time bomb and the situation would spiral out of control if no proactive steps were taken to arrest its decline,” Randall said.
The Emfuleni municipal spokesperson could not be reached for comment.