On the campaign trail in Maluti-a-Phofung in the Free State on Saturday, DA leader Mmusi Maimane was stinging in his criticism of what he characterised as failed economic initiatives in the municipality.
The DA will be contesting 15 upcoming by-elections in the area on Wednesday.
He said that it was clear that unemployment was harming the area’s 400,000 residents, who had been failed by unrealised plans in a “special economic zone”.
“Where we could experience a booming area with manufacturing, tourism and education opportunities for all, we find a municipality with the highest unemployment rate in the country.”
He said that the Tshiame Special Economic Zone was not far from where they were, “where various ANC ‘launches’ have made more empty promises about jobs”.
“But because the municipality cannot sustainably supply water and electricity, nothing has come of this project.
“Sixteen factories in the Harrismith area turned to the courts to stop Eskom cutting the electricity supply, which put as many as 10,000 jobs providing for 50,000 people at risk. The situation is so dire that the community has been managing the water supply to the Greater Harrrismith Area since November last year.”
He said there was no evidence on the ground of President Cyril Ramaphosa announcing in his state of the nation address this year that the industrial area had been “revived”.
“The ANC government have been at the centre of this jobs crisis in a municipality that has only ever received a disclaimer from the Auditor-General. That means that in almost 20 years since 2001, no opinion has been given regarding the financial statements of the municipality.
“Under the reign of Mayor Vusi Tshabalala, the administration was reduced to a conduit for theft, misappropriation and fraud. This looting was so severe that by the time the municipality was placed under provincial administration in February last year, the administration was bankrupt with not much left to salvage.
“This grand heist of the municipality continues to be fuelled by a factional war over services meant for the people. It is like a pack of hyenas fighting over the scraps of a carcass and is a symbol for the looting that continues to plague the rest of the country.
“Maluti-a-Phofung has since been placed under national administration. The situation has only deteriorated, with the municipality owing Eskom R4.5 billion.”
He urged residents to rather place their faith in the DA on Wednesday, instead of the ANC.
The DA would be contesting all 15 wards in the area and pledged to deliver clean government, effective management and “an obsessive focus on economic development, investment and job opportunities”.
“Why you may rightly not be able to trust more empty promises from the ANC sound taxis and trucks you now see or the cash and food parcels that have arrived in QwaQwa, you can be assured that the DA’s offer is credible because, where we govern, we get stuff done. In the DA-governed Western Cape, the expanded unemployment rate is the lowest in the country at 23.8%, over 15% lower than the national average.
“QwaQwa does not need to remain paralysed by full days without water supply, unstable electricity, inaccessible roads, shockingly high youth unemployment and parasitic factional battles,” he added.
(Edited by Charles Cilliers)