IN TOUCH| Staring into the abyss

At the best of times governing is a very difficult task. Having to govern under the prevailing economic conditions which have been exacerbated by the prolonged covid-19 pandemic renders the task almost  impossible.

To navigate through these trying times means that those given the responsibility must be people who not only take the task seriously, but also people with skills, expertise, exceptional ethical  standards and above all selflessness. As we open yet another new year we dare not continue where we left off in the previous one which is the reason we have landed slap bang in the middle of this vortex. Driving around in the towns of the Eastern Cape one gets a sense that we are living in a dystopian world. One cannot be faulted if one feels that ours is a world that has been hit by a cyclone as nothing seems to work.

We have learnt to live with potholes, if they even qualify to be called as such any more, non-working traffic lights, non-working street lamps, flooded streets after every rain and the most apocalyptic one of them all, a high mast light that fell on top of houses in broad daylight in Mlungisi township in Komani. In Amathole District Municipality which includes towns like Cathcart and Stutterheim, they literally ran out of money to pay salaries and announced that they will not be able to pay them for four months this year, starting from the end of February. Finally, mismanagement and incompetence has come to bite the very same people responsible for it. You would scarcely believe the kind of decisions that these municipalities make – many are just plain stupid and self-defeating.

Apparently, Amathole hired 900 employees between 2013 and 2018, with no regard to whether the municipality could afford them. They also upgraded themselves from a category 6 municipality to 7 and adjusted everyone’s salary accordingly. I am not sure, therefore, why we would be surprised that things have turned out the way they have. When a whole national parliament portfolio committee chairperson, Faith Muthambi, says: ‘We are calling on the leadership and management of the municipality to rise to the occasion and find solutions to the problems. The committee hopes that the problem is not beyond the capacity of the council and the management of the municipality” you begin to see we are really doomed. The municipality has been run to the ground by the very same people she is calling upon to solve the problem they have engineered. She is ‘hoping that the problem is not beyond the capacity of the council…..’. Muthambi might as well call upon us to pray for Amathole District Municipality, that’s how useless her input was. The municipality says it wants R65 794 822 times four, for them to be able to pay salaries. That is 1670 people at an average of R39 000 a month per person and they have some of the highest amounts paid to consultants.

This mess happening at this municipality is, sadly, not an isolated incident. There are a total of 14 municipalities that have been identified as being in ‘distress’ by Cogta MEC Xolile Nqatha and I am sure by the end of this year there will be many more. We just cannot continue like this, we just can not. Something has to give. At some point we have to look at who is in charge and who has deployed these incompetent people to be in charge of our lives. Let me leave it there for today. Compliments of the new year to you all.

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