Emfuleni Municipality is on auto-pilot mode, heading to a disastrous destination.
No one is in charge and nobody can predict the fate of Emfuleni residents and business community operating in the Vaal municipality
The local authority is operating with neither office furniture nor computers to effect revenue collection. Not even municipal traffic cops are rendering services as their vehicles were towed away by the Sheriff of the High Court last week. Service delivery is effectively suspended in Emfuleni.
Eskom is pursuing the Vaal municipality over the R2.3 billion debt. What further incensed the power utility was Emfuleni’s failure to stick to a payment arrangement plan. The Power Utility got a judgment against the municipality in March 2018, but held it in abeyance expecting the local authority to stick to a negotiated repayment agreement.
Eskom ’spokesman Sikonathi Mantshantsha told Vaal Observer that Emfuleni attracted property seizures by routinely defaulting in respect of payment plans.
According to the payment arrangement, the municipality was supposed to pay monthly installments of R145 million in summer and double the amount in winter
Efforts to urgently interdict the on-going property seizure were thrown-out by the High Court this week leaving the municipality vulnerable to Eskom like a caucus on parade for vultures to demolish and gulp. Sheriff of the High Court has a blank cheque to attach whatever he can lay his hands on at Emfuleni premises.
The disaster bedeviling the municipality is further compounded by clear lack of leadership at the institution which is operating under section 139.
Not even a word has come from the Mayor’s office to give residents a sense of hope or assurance. Gift Moerane, has remained distant from the flames burning down Emfuleni Municipality under his leadership. This is despite the fact that he promised to turn-around the fortunes of the Municipality when he took over a year ago. He announced a military style of operation to speed up service delivery.
Moerane ’spokeswoman, Lebo Mofokeng, declined to utter a word about the challenges bedeviling the municipality, preferring to shift the responsibility to the council Communications Manager Stanley Gaba who is doing his best to contain an already ugly situation.
Confusion took centre stage last week when Cllr Pius Maseko told the media that the municipality interdicted the property seizures, only for Gaba to issue out facts which were at variance with the claim.
“The situation is that the Sheriff of the Court is continuing with the seizure of the assets after the municipality failed in court to halt the process on an urgent basis,” said Gaba in a media statement sent to Vaal Observer.
A Vaal Loch business man, Andre Welsh expressed shock at the level of confusion at the council.
“How did we get here? The Mayor must provide leadership from the front by giving explanations and providing solutions instead of hiding in his shell,” said Welsh.
Welsh demanded to know why the council failed to stick to a repayment arrangement plan.
Another resident of Vanderbijlpark, Siyabonga Nqcobo questioned the rational of the council’s failure to prioritise Eskom payments
“I expected the council to be diligent in everything they do in an effort to remove themselves from the section 139 administration, instead, they are even more complacent to an extent of omitting to service an already huge power bill. This is not on,” said Nqcobo.
“Not even one person has lost his/her job despite all this mercy,” remarked one Vaaloewer resident who declined to be named.
The council is now banking on a meeting held between Gauteng COGTA MEC Lebogang Maile and Eskom CEO Andre de Ruyter on Monday. Details of the meeting’s outcome were still sketchy by the time of publishing this story.
Eskom’s Mantshantsha confirmed that the two met, but did not disclose details of the outcomes of the meeting.
The New Municipal Manager, Lucky Leseane, has been shuttling between Eskom and Maile’s offices since he started work on 1 February this year seeking to strike a new deal.
Leseane told a Johannesburg based Televisions News Channel last week that Eskom should give him a chance to solve the problem as he was still fresh into the job. He said Soweto was not receiving the same treatment as Emfuleni despite the fact that the township also owed billions to the Power Utility.
He maintained that his municipality was sincerely servicing the debt but cried foul over the R368 million interest accrued by the whopping debit. He however did not disclose his winning formulae to the challenge except to say Eskom has not yet responded to a new proposal forwarded to it.
The new boss also said a 33 year old deal between huge manufacturing industries and Eskom was making it impossible for Emfuleni to generate revenue from electricity supplies.
Apparently the manufacturing companies operating in Emfuleni buy electricity directly from Eskom at a subsidized rate