‘Give us the money’
Electrification funds going to headmen
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.
Above: Nomfundo Mchunu, 19, prepares dinner in a makeshift structure. Below: Celwaphi Nene has to make do with a coal stove.