‘Give us the money’

Elec­tri­fi­ca­tion funds go­ing to head­men

Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - CHRIS NDALISO

REDIRECTING funds meant for ser­vice de­liv­ery was a sign the gov­ern­ment cared about votes more than the well-be­ing of the ru­ral poor, some Wee­nen res­i­dents told the Daily News on Fri­day.

They were re­act­ing to the KwaZulu-Natal Co-op­er­a­tive Gover­nance and Tra­di­tional Af­fairs Depart­ment’s move to re­di­rect more than R500 mil­lion meant for var­i­ous ser­vice-de­liv­ery pro­grammes to pay salaries for head­men.

Elec­tric­ity was to have been in­stalled in 1 900 home­steads in the area, at a cost of R45 814 mil­lion. The project had been on track but had since stopped.

A Msobot­sheni res­i­dent in ward 20, Mt­shengiseni Mchunu, said there was more to the funds re­di­rect­ion to pay head­men than met the eye.

“How can they bud­get for our elec­tric­ity and then take that money to pay izin­duna? When Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma made the procla­ma­tion, was there no bud­get for that? This is ab­so­lutely in­sane.

“These peo­ple think that we are stupid. We know that they are des­per­ate to keep izin­duna happy, so that in re­turn the lat­ter keeps the elec­torate happy. They (gov­ern­ment) know that we lis­ten to tra­di­tional lead­ers and by keep­ing them happy they stand to gain. We are pawns in the po­lit­i­cal game,” Mchunu said.

He said they had no prob­lem with head­men get­ting salaries, but it should not be at the ex­pense of the ru­ral poor.

“My wife and kids can’t go to the toi­let at night. If there’s an emer­gency for one of them to do so, I have to ac­com­pany them be­cause it’s dark. We cook on the ground out­side.

“These peo­ple are tak­ing us for granted,” Mchunu said.

He said they had been wait­ing for more than a year since the in­stal­la­tion had been done and mu­nic­i­pal work­ers said they would come back by June and they were still wait­ing.

His daugh­ter, Nom­fundo, 19, said she wished to pass her ma­tric and get a job and move her par­ents away from the area.

The Daily News re­ported last week that some projects in­clud­ing com­mu­nity ser­vice cen­tres (R115 057 094), dis­as­ter man­age­ment and drought (R145.8m), and elec­tri­fi­ca­tion projects (R148 020 925) were los­ing the funds to pay izin­duna. This will be ef­fec­tive for the 2017/18, 2018/19 and 2019/20 fi­nan­cial years.

The to­tal amount the depart­ment will be chan­nelling to head­men’s salaries is just over R572 mil­lion over the next three fi­nan­cial years.

There are more than 3 000 head­men in the prov­ince and in 2015, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma signed a procla­ma­tion that they would re­ceive an­nual salaries of R84 125.

Un­til then, only head­men who at­tended tra­di­tional coun­cils had re­ceived a R1 300 stipend.

An­other res­i­dent, who iden­ti­fied him­self only as Nene, said elec­tri­fi­ca­tion had stalled since last year.

“You would ex­pect peo­ple in gov­ern­ment to be or­gan­ised. What they are do­ing is un­for­giv­able. If they think de­priv­ing us of our ba­sic need will win them votes, they have to think again.

“They should have bud­geted for the head­men’s salaries and not take what was for ser­vice de­liv­ery for their de­vi­ous pur­poses. It is ob­vi­ous that they are try­ing to keep head­men happy at our ex­pense,” Nene said.

Chief Phathi­sizwe Chiliza, chair­per­son of the KZN House of Tra­di­tional Lead­ers, said peo­ple had ev­ery rea­son to ques­tion the stalling of ser­vicede­liv­ery projects.

“Firstly, we need to sep­a­rate ad­min­is­tra­tive is­sues from pol­i­tics. This re­ally needs to be looked into.

“How did gov­ern­ment sign a law with­out en­sur­ing that there was bud­get? Those in­volved in this should ex­plain and be held ac­count­able if they did not do their job,” Chiliza said.

In a re­cent re­ply to the DA’s par­lia­men­tary ques­tions, the Co-op­er­a­tive Gover­nance and Tra­di­tional Af­fairs Min­istry said it was with­out a “sig­nif­i­cant por­tion” of its bud­get that it could use to as­sist mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties with ser­vice de­liv­ery projects.

It said the “dra­matic cut” to ser­vice de­liv­ery was as a re­sult of hav­ing to bud­get for the pay­ment of head­men.

The DA’s Fran­cois Rodgers said while the DA was not obliv­i­ous to the im­per­a­tive so­ci­etal role played by tra­di­tional lead­er­ship, it de­cried the provin­cial fund­ing costs that came with it, “es­pe­cially when ser­vice de­liv­ery is se­ri­ously com­pro­mised”.

When asked if head­men had not been bud­geted for when the procla­ma­tion was signed, depart­ment spokesper­son Len­nox Mabaso said head­men had re­ceived pay­ments since last De­cem­ber.

He lashed out at Rodgers, say­ing he and cer­tain in­di­vid­u­als within the DA were un­der­min­ing the role played by tra­di­tional lead­ers.

“Ev­ery­thing the DA says will be laced with a lot of pro­pa­ganda. Head­men re­quire the depart­ment to have a big­ger bud­get. This thing of de­mon­is­ing African ways by some DA mem­bers is sad and shock­ing and can­not be ac­cepted,” he said.

He said the Re­mu­ner­a­tive Of­fice, in line with the Re­mu­ner­a­tion of the Pub­lic Of­fice Bear­ers Act, had made a rec­om­men­da­tion to the pres­i­dent, who later (2014) an­nounced the pay­ment of an an­nual salary to head­men .

“The fis­cus im­pli­ca­tion for us and Lim­popo be­came huge be­cause of the num­ber of izin­duna. This gov­ern­ment is com­mit­ted to restor­ing the dig­nity of head­men and amakhosi and there­fore there will al­ways be bud­get ad­just­ments in­formed by var­i­ous fac­tors,” Mabaso said.

PIC­TURES: CHRIS NDALISO

Above: Nom­fundo Mchunu, 19, pre­pares din­ner in a makeshift struc­ture. Be­low: Cel­waphi Nene has to make do with a coal stove.

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