The Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality (EMLM) will roll out smart electronic meter boxes this month to alleviate the scourge of electricity theft and boost its dwindling revenue collection.
This was revealed by EMLM mayor Luleka Gubhula, who spoke out on issues facing the municipality and projects they were busy with to address service delivery matters during a press briefing on Monday.
Gubhula said the migration to smart meters would be an efficient monitoring and revenue collection technique that would stop the manipulation of their meter boxes.
“We hope from this month our teams will be on the ground replacing old meter boxes with the new electronic ones, starting with businesses. We will need maximum co-operation from all businesses and residents. This will alleviate illegal connections, improve revenue collection and ultimately improve service delivery.”
EMLM accounting officer Nokuthula Mgijima said the project was a “cost sharing initiative” and the municipality would not inject any funds into it due to financial constraints.
“We appointed three service providers who gave their propasals for the project. We will not be injecting any funds into this project, it will be a cost-sharing initiative because we do not have the budget for it. The project will be rolled out throughout the EMLM area, starting in Komani. Before the project commences we will have to hold public participation meetings so that residents are aware of this new system. During a community meeting with Ezibeleni residents recently, they informed us about faulty meter boxes and that they wanted to pay for services, therefore Ezibeleni will be one of the residential areas we start with.
“Our adjusted budget is R703m. We receive grants from the national fiscus, including the equitable share, of R180m, the municipal infrastructure grant of R54m and the integrated national electrification programme is at R8m. This shows we need to generate the majority of funds ourselves – about R500m. We commend residents who continually pay for services while encouraging those who do not pay to come forward. The majority of funds for the municipality come from the residents.”
Mgijima said non-payment of services by government departments added to the detriment of the local authority as they owed a combined R23m.
“We have been proactive and started switching them off, including public works who have since paid more than R700 000 this week, and committed to paying the remaining R800 000 in the next financial year. However, we still need to confirm their debt because I think they owe us about R4m. The health department (including clinics) owed us R6m. We switched their admin and resource centre off and only left the wards because we do not want to be responsible for any loss of life. However, they pleaded with us to switch them back on and committed to pay R1m by the end of this week. We did not receive any commitments from the education department.”
Gubhula said the municipality was doing its best to address service delivery matters like gravelling bad roads and cleaning the town.
“The road construction project which started in October has been working in sections of Ezibeleni and Mlungisi, gravelling and fixing potholes. We sourced plant from the transport department and our service provider. About 10km of gravel road has been completed. All areas will get their turn to have their roads repaired. I know people are not really interested in having roads repaired because some are badly damaged, they want tar roads, but that is all we can afford now.
“We are also busy with our cleaning campaign. We thought by February 24 we would have started with this project in Ezibeleni, but there was still work to be done in Mlungisi. As soon as we are done we will proceed to Ezibeleleni and from there we will go to other areas with illegal dumping sites. It is, however, discouraging that residents still transport rubbish in vehicles and drop it off by the roadside on the back access road to Ezibeleni, which is only a few km from the tip site.
“The accounting officer said the transport department allocated R25m to fix the roads, including those that were not repaired by the erstwhile entities. Of this amount R3m is set aside for the Ezibeleni main road from the N6 to Ikhala FET College, and the road to Queendustria. The total allocated budget for the roads project is R90m.”
Speaking about Let’s Talk Komani’s (LTK) court application to have the EMLM dissolved, the mayor said it was unfortunate they were labelled “irresponsible” because they were attending to service delivery issues.
“They even accuse us of not attending meetings, but the latest meeting with the advisor to the premier was communicated badly. We asked for it to start at 12noon that day because we had a special council meeting which was our priority. Any other meeting is secondary. We will attend the follow-up meeting next Tuesday so we can iron out issues with stakeholders and come up with amicable solutions.”
The mayor also cleared the air regarding the delayed salary payments last month, stating they prioritised paying their creditors (including Eskom) due to insufficient funds.
“Not paying Eskom would have negatively affected thousands of residents. We thought we could speak to our staff and be honest about the situation. We would not have been able to explain to paying residents and businesses why they had to suffer because of non-payers. We have a payment arrangement with Eskom which we have honoured thus far.”