MOVING from a unionist to a councillor – and then to fill the position of Lukhanji executive mayor – has been a hectic transition for Nozi Makanda.
In an exclusive interview with The Rep just before the expected amalgamation of the Lukhanji/ Inkwanca/ Tsolwana areas into the Enoch Mgijima Municipality and the anticipated appointment of a new mayor, Makanda said local government was a conglomeration of issues affecting many people.
“It is the most highly- legislated sphere of government and you must read, interpret and implement legislation correctly. Failure to do that lands you in court, with disclaimers, labour disputes and unhappy communities.”
She had taken her responsibilities seriously and regarded them as an opportunity to serve. “There is so much to learn and I have had valuable lessons from the diverse people with whom I interacted.”
Makanda said facilitating change in the governance of Lukhanji was among some of the greatest moments in her tenure. It was a “painful exercise” as it needed political principals to take a hard look at how the municipality was run.
She said she was excited when, at a strategic session in 2014, the directors through work streams with the cooperative governance and traditional affairs department, South African Local Government Association and Treasury, honestly reflected on the weaknesses they had. Covering problems does not get them solved, and they embarked on a path was started to start finding solutions.
A milestone was the centralisation of supply chain processes.
“We were disclaimed because we could not produce evidence of how we had spent money and whether we had followed correct procedures.”
Others were the adoption of the organogram in the 2015/16 year, while review and adoption of the spatial development framework, timeous adoption of the IDP and budget, getting a qualified audit after five successive disclaimers and meaningful stakeholder engagement were also highlights.
She said the suffering caused by violent and destructive behaviour during strikes, including scattering trash, burning tyres and disrupting services, was one of the lowest points.
“Back to basics is the legacy I would like to leave,” she said, and that municipal grant spending and shorter timelines on internal processes should be focus areas. With the merger, a change management process would be key – both politically and administratively. Makanda said the split between the operating and capital budget was at 80/15 (sic), which was an unhealthy state of affairs. She said the municipality needed more revenue streams and to strengthen existing ones to achieve at least a 50/50 split. “We have not balanced new developments with infrastructure development and maintenance. Extra funding is needed for these and we have advertised for proposals for funding.
There had been administrative and political instability in Lukhanji, including changes in mayors and administrative leadership. It was most important for the community to agree where it wants to see itself and leadership to drive the programme.
“We are doing everything in our power to fix the problems with electricity infrastructure.
“We have fixed a cable problem at a substation in Ezibeleni and replaced an aging substation near Queendustria. A new substation is part of the upgrades for the industrial area and we have replaced a substation in Ebden Street.”
The municipality had set aside a budget to upgrade the voltage in the areas under pressure, but illegal connections and electricity theft remained a threat.
The local authority had applied for funding from the Environmental Affairs Department and got R30- million approved to deal with the landfill site with the Chris Hani Development Agency to run the project of waste recycling.
Lukhanji was identified as the economic hub, targeted for industrial development and manufacturing. Funding of R44-million for the agro-industrial hub development and infrastructure development within the industrial area had been set aside.
“I am grateful to the ANC for the privilege it gave me of serving this community,” she said, thanking the mayoral committee, management and staff for their support.