Thaba Chweu, Mpumalanga
Overflowing sewerage, potholes, rubbish bins and bulging plastic bags left uncollected for days are the signature marks of Mashishing township in Mpumalanga.
The nearby town of Mashishing (formerly Lydenburg) is the seat of Thaba Chweu Local Municipality, the tourism mecca of Mpumalanga, boasting attractions such as God’s Window and the historic mining town of Pilgrim’s Rest.
All the service delivery weaknesses the eye can see point to vast problems in the municipality’s administration. Thaba Chweu – with a population of 98 387 and stretching over 5 730km² – received a record eighth successive disclaimer from Auditor-General Kimi Makwetu for the 2015/16 financial year.
Despite this, Thaba Chweu has been spared being placed under administration.
It has also been beset by sporadic service delivery protests since 2009.
“They are looting in broad daylight”, said DA councillor Comfort Sibiya.
“The ANC cannot put this municipality under administration because if there is any municipality that can be won by the opposition in Mpumalanga, it is Thaba Chweu.”
The DA, the Economic Freedom Fighters and the Bushbuckridge Residents’ Association have grown in Thaba Chweu after the last local government elections, held in 2016.
Of the 27 councillors, 10 are on the opposition benches.
Sibiya said the ANC’s Bohlabela regional executive had been interfering with procurement and appointment issues in Thaba Chweu.
“Leaders here try their best to please the ANC region. Hence, companies are appointed without following procedures and officials who do not meet requirements are appointed. We are going for a record 10th disclaimer in this municipality,” he said, adding that recommendations of the municipal public accounts committee and the audit committee were often snubbed.
Sibiya also said Thaba Chweu owed Eskom more than R300 million, but when City Press questioned municipal spokesperson Puleng Mapheto about this, he said the municipality could respond to Makwetu’s report only next week.
Mashishing resident Vusi Manzini said many of his neighbours had given up hope that things would come right in their neighbourhood.
“The municipal officials and politicians do as they please, without consulting us. We always get surprised when they increase electricity and water tariffs,” he said.
“There are no meter readings. How do they determine how much water people use?
“This means they can tamper with finances at the revenue collection department.
“All these things contribute to the disclaimers and lack of service delivery – and they are very corrupt,” Manzini said of the municipal officials.
He said municipal managers were also often changed, leading to further instability.
Another resident, Billy Mankgane, said there had been acting municipal managers for the past 10 years and “the appointment of unqualified officials has been a big issue, contributing to the collapse in administration”.