Komani businesses appeal for intervention over service delivery

Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality   Picture: ABONGILE SOLUNDWANA

Local residents and business owners are backing the Border-Kei Chamber of Business petition initiative for premier Oscar Mabuyane to intervene in the mismanagement of Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality (EMLM).

Border-Kei Chamber of Business (BKCOB) has confirmed that so far more than 1000 residents and business owners have signed the petition.

BKCOB chairman, Mark Wilson, said the petition was to garner support from businesses and the community at large and the response has been overwhelming.

”We have never petitioned before. We sent letters to the premier and the president in 2019 and 2020 respectively. Our first intervention was communicating with the then premier, Phumulo Masualle, in 2016 and 2017,” the chairman said.

Their request to Mabuyane, Wilson said, is to address the current state and also stipulate a timeframe for the intervention.

 ”We need to stop bleeding R35m per month. This is stealing from the future of children in our town. We will ask the premier to intervene in the maladministration of the town,” said Wilson.

 On Tuesday a virtual meeting was held with critical stakeholders in town and EMLM administrator, Monwabisi Somana, was invited.

“We have full confidence in the administrator and cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta). We will  wholeheartedly support them if there is no political interference in their efforts to fix the town.”

BKCOB director, Lizelle Maurice, said doing business in Komani was extremely difficult because of lack of service delivery did not allow them to operate effectively.

”You saw in the news that the Clover cheese factory moved their operations from Lichtenberg in the North West to KZN because of service delivery issues in that municipality. They are going to cost the town jobs. If there is no immediate intervention in Komani, we may have the same crises. We want to prevent that.

”We want the premier to please allocate enough financial resources for an infrastructure upgrade for, electricity, the roads and the sewage. We do have confidence in the administrator with whom we have been working. We will be forming a task team consisting of the private and public sectors,” she said

Twizza and Crickley Dairy owner, Ken Clark, said when the EMLM was formed there was R120m credit in the bank left from the old Lokhanji Municipality, and in contrast, today R900m had been written off as irregular and wasteful expenditure since the amalgamation.

”Today the Eskom debt is about R540m. It has come to our attention that the wage bill of the municipality is at about 55%, where the norm is between 35%and 40% at a push. It has come to light that roughly 400, that have either passed on, been fired, left voluntarily, are still on the payroll. All still being paid.

”This is fraudulent neglect, economic sabotage in fact. Businesses have not had service while the municipality has been paying millions of rands a month to people who should not be paid at all. We cannot even buy a repair kit for cables. We have no waste collection service delivery,” he said.

Clark added that electricity problems were just a fraction of the problems encountered in the town. He said an example was the electricity cables in Ebden Street which were installed 60 to 70 years ago. “It is like putting a band-aid on a cancer scenario by trying to fix these cables every day,” said Clark.

He added that other challenges include damaged roads and the lack of refuse collection services.

Somana said he understood the frustrations of local business which have tried to intervene to no success. He said the cause of bankruptcy was uncontrolled expenditure, from billing of personal calls, ballooned recruitments, and unnecessary contracts that were not advancing the service delivery objective of the municipality.

”There is no employment currently happening or new contracts but we have not succeeded in increasing the revenue,”

He said the expectation of cracking the whip as administrator was easier said than done because he operated in a legislative environment.

”The placement of any municipality under administration is a sign of deep rot. This explains complaints about the deterioration of municipal services and its mismanagement which make it unbearable to trade and live in Komani.

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