Abaqulusi municipality in dire straits
The administration in the Abaqulusi Municipality incorporating Vryheid has collapsed. The situation is so dire that the municipality has failed to pay various suppliers, who have stopped providing services, and the unions are calling for the provincial government’s intervention.
The unions, Samwu and Imatu, want KwaZulu-Natal Cooperative Governance MEC Nomusa Dube-Mncube to place Abaqulusi under administration. The municipality has been unable to employ a permanent municipal manager since 2012.
Both unions have planned a march next week to present the ministry with a memorandum containing a list of grievances around the collapse of the council and a request for the intervention.
City Press visited the town this week and found that the municipality has failed to even replace a tyre on one of its two tankers, crucial to supplying the town and surrounding townships with water.
On Thursday, residents told City Press that Vryheid had been without water for four days. They said its 12 000-litre tanker was standing on blocks in a municipal yard where it has been parked for four months because the tyre supplier has not been paid.
Residents from the town’s suburbs and Mondlo township were filling buckets and containers at a single tap in the municipal park, while others were collecting water from tanks in an open area a block away.
“We are in a crisis. This municipality has ceased to function. The acting municipal manager’s contract has expired and the council was unable to make up a quorum for the meeting to discuss the extension of his contract. There are a large number of posts that have not been filled for several years,” said Imatu shop steward Khehla Mkhwanazi.
“Suppliers haven’t been paid for months, as it seems that the acting municipal manager does not have signing powers. We cannot make outside phone calls because Telkom hasn’t been paid.
“We need the MEC to intervene. Section 139 (c) must be applied and an administrator must be appointed,’’ he demanded.
The council, run by a failed National Freedom Party-ANC coalition, has been unable to form a quorum in scheduled meetings. Infighting in the ANC’s Abaqulusi region has also contributed to the dysfunction of the municipality, unions say.
Samwu shop steward Khulekani Dlamini described the failed coalition as an “abortion” and said there was “no political will’’ to deal with the crisis.
“This council does not function because of a lack of political will. It has not functioned since 2012 and things are getting worse.
“We fear that nothing will be done between now and August because the councillors don’t know if they will be coming back or not. We need the ministry to bring in an administrator urgently,” Dlamini said.
Meanwhile, the National Freedom Party-ANC partnership hangs in the balance and the parties have not agreed on any alliance pact before the August poll.
Abaqulusi spokesperson Arnold Ramodibe and acting municipal manager Bongiwe Mnikathi did not respond to calls and emails from City Press.
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Vryheid residents have had no water in their homes for four days