Favours for friends
Municipal grader and water tanker used to grade road for funeral
NDLAMBE municipal resources were used to grade a provincial rural road from Bathurst to Trappes Valley as a favour to a former mayor because of a funeral procession to his mother’s gravesite last Saturday.
Farmer Coert Herbst alerted TotT to the use of the municipal grader and water tanker last week and took photographs.
He found out it was being done for the funeral of former mayor Sipho Tandani’s mother.
“They [municipal employees] first drove all the way out the previous Saturday to grade the road into Trappes Valley station and at the old railway cottages.
“Also the short road to an unlawful graveyard next to the railway line,” Herbst said.
“Last week the grader and water truck graded the road from Bathurst to the entrance of the graveyard. It covers a distance of about 7km.”
The grading of the road took place in the broader context of farmers having asked for years for roads like this to be graded – a provincial competency – and their requests fell on deaf ears.
Agri Eastern Cape took the provincial roads department to court two years ago to compel the department to attend to rural gravel roads that required repair and maintenance.
Agri EC won the case in the Grahamstown High Court in February, with a court order giving a timeline to the department to appoint contractors to fix roads badly in need of repair and establish a routine maintenance programme.
When Ndlambe DA caucus leader Ray Schenk heard about the use of municipal equipment to grade the Trappes Valley road, he also sent questions to municipal manager Rolly Dumezweni.
“I wish to have information on whose instruction this portion of a provincial rural road was graded and from which budget the cost of this work was done,” Schenk said.
“If the grader and operator was hired out for this work I wish to know what the charge was for the work carried out and whether the account has been settled with the municipality.
“There are many gravel roads in Ndlambe urban areas that require grading but have been overlooked because of the unavailability of the grader and/or budgetary constraints.
“There are kilometres of rural gravel roads that are neglected by the provincial authorities where the local farming community has had to maintain at their own cost.
“Will the municipality assist these farmers as well, as a precedent has been set with the grading of the gravel road to Trappes Valley?”
Schenk had not received a reply as of yesterday morning, but TotT received a reply to our query to the municipality over the use of municipal resources for grading the road.
Municipal spokesman Cecil Mbolekwa said Dumezweni had tried to contact the provincial engineer responsible for roads and transport in the area of Ndlambe, but could not get a response from him until last Thursday.
“We had to grade the road ourselves and later discuss how the department of roads and transport would compensate us for work done,” Mbolekwa said.
He avoided responding to the assertion that municipal resources were being used as a favour to the former mayor.
“Over and above we still have the responsibility as the municipality to service the farm community considering the issue of wall to wall boundaries,” he said.
“As the municipality we also have the responsibility to assist the farm communities as we normally do with services like electricity, gel stoves and jojo tanks. We are also supporting the farm community by delivering fresh water to them, hence it is very important to look at the issues of farm people holistically.
“Not only to the farm-dwellers, the community in informal settlements and township are also assisted whenever they request access to halls, church. also graveyards.
“We cannot turn a blind eye when it comes to people who have made a serious contribution to the municipality and the community in general.”
PERSONAL INTEREST: A portion of the Trappes Valley road that was graded leads to the old railway cottages and gravesite of former mayor Sipho Tandani’s mother
ABUSE OF RESOURCES: A municipal grader was used to grade the Trappes Valley dirt road for a funeral for the mother of former mayor Sipho Tandani last week