Opening remarks by the Executive Mayor of Emfuleni Local Municipality Cllr Mahole Simon Mofokeng during the 293 Mayoral Committee Meeting, Council Chamber, 24 January 2017

Councillor Mahole Simon MofokengGREETINGS AND OPENING REMARKS

A good morning to you fellow Members of the Mayoral Committee together with members of the Senior Management Team as I welcome you all back to work! Our purpose here remains that of serving our communities.

Colleagues, our meeting takes place 24 days into the New Year and marks our first gathering for 2017. Let me take this opportunity to thank members of this team who joined us in our programmes to welcome toddlers born on Christmas Day and New Year’s Day and all those who made themselves available for the Back to School Programme.

We started 2017 on a high and it is my wish to see the same amount of energy throughout the year. Colleagues, it gives me great pleasure to see that MMC Sengoatsi, one of our own who was involved in car accident from a deployment where she represented my Office, is well on her way to making a full recovery. I am excited that MMC Sengoatsi and other deployees of our movement including Member of Parliament Dr. P. Maesela and Councillors M.P Ndlovu [Ward 20] and P.N Jama [Ward 42] survived the crash and are back serving our movement in their respective roles. Let me take this opportunity to wish MMC Thulo a speedy recovery, please rest and recover to return stronger.

JANUARY 8 – UNITY IN ACTION

I am happy that ANC has dedicated its 105th anniversary to the life and times of Cde. O.R. with the theme, “The Year of Oliver Reginald Tambo: Unity in Action”. You are all aware that Cde. O.R. was born in October – a month which great leaders are born. Cde O.R. is the long-serving leader of our movement.
When he said we should all close ranks, the legendary O.R. meant for this message to encourage unity and a spirit of working together towards a common goal. We must spread this message to our communities. More especially as we are nearing another SOMA – a speech that has set a pace for the current. We made promises and we have to take stock those commitments.

Colleagues, the movement has spoken and we now face a difficult task of internalizing January 8 with its call for unity in action. This must not be an empty slogan but a clarion call to all members of our organization, especially leaders and deployees like ourselves. The choice of dedicating the year to the leader of Oliver Reginald Tambo’s caliber was not a mistake. Isithwalandwe/Seaparankoe Tambo was known as a thread, fiber and glue that held the ANC together in trying times. Therefore, such a call must find its meaning in the committees of the ANC including our own MAYCO.

Colleagues, I thought I should use a simple narrative about the importance of time to open our meeting today. I thought I should take this opportunity to remind all of you that ours is work judged solely on time.

Our people always look at our performance against the time we have been in office. Time has become the ultimate measure of our successes and failures.

105 years of the mighty and glorious ANC, 23 years of a democracy of the people, by the people and for the people and 20 years of the world-revered Constitution – the common denominator of this epic South African story is time. No matter how you count it, in weeks, months and years – the ANC rule in all parts of our country is judged in time.

Ladies and gentlemen, our efforts today, what we do now, determine our shelf-life as politicians and the future of our movement because while time is free, it is priceless in the lives of our people. We cannot own time but we can use it to work for the people who have entrusted us with their votes. We cannot keep time but we can spend it delivering services to our communities. Remember, once we have lost time, we can never get it back. We are on borrowed time, rented to us by those who chose to put us in power yet again – let us not disappoint them.

History will judge us harshly if we do not address the challenges facing our people with a sense of urgency they deserve. We must listen to our people when they complain that our turn-around time in attending to complaints is worsening and not improving. Our movement can ill-afford to turn our voters and allies into its enemies.

Fellow Colleagues, it is crucial that as we celebrate 2017 as the year of the great OR Tambo, we should remember what he always taught us: "Beware of the enemy within. Remain vigilant at all times!" The unity and renewal of the organization are therefore paramount.

We must heed the words of O.R Tambo, uttered when he closed the 1969 watershed Morogoro Conference: "Wage a relentless war against disrupters and defend the ANC against provocateurs and enemy agents. Defend the revolution against enemy propaganda, whatever form it takes. Be vigilant comrades.

The enemy is vigilant. Beware of the wedge-driver, the man who creeps from ear to ear, carrying a bag full of wedges, driving them in between you and the next man, between a group and another, a man who goes round creating splits and divisions. Beware of the wedge-driver, comrades. Watch his poisonous tongue".

The movement has over the years invested in you and empowered you with many political and organizational skills – the time to close ranks has come, at a time when underhanded letters are written to undermine our leadership. We must remain resolute at all times.

Speaking at provincial rally held in KZN over the weekend, ANC President Jacob Zuma said, “The time for names has not come,” as the succession debates continue unabated inside and outside the structures of the ANC. All eyes are now on the ANC to see who it will entrust with its number one position and we remain anxious as we await for this much-awaited process to unfold.

I was happy to learn that the Fees Commission set up by President Jacob Zuma to investigate the feasibility of free higher education has this week resumed with Statistician-General Pali Lehohla taking the stand. We must follow developments in this regard closely as we all know that our institutions of higher learning were affected by the #FeesMustFall movement which protested against the rising costs of education.

Comrades, the last Council Meeting evoked the now-habit which we see in the National Parliament wanting to show its ugly head in our peaceful Council. I know that we are the Mayoral Committee and our competency is not one of holding Councillors accountable but what we have seen in our closing of the Council it needs us as political heads to work together with the PMT to curb these unprecedented acts. We have to do this in time before the first Council Sitting scheduled to take place on January 31. The PMT must assure us that the Councillors who were responsible for the misbehavior we experienced during this very last Council are dealt with.

Colleagues, I am saddened by the rise of fake news with credible news organizations such as 702 and Sunday Times crying foul after their social media platforms were hijacked by those who seek to use their brands to perpetuate propaganda against ANC leaders. By its own idea, fake news drives propaganda aimed at damaging political principals like ourselves. We are politicians in a volatile environment where perception is everything – and our detractors will do everything in their power to discredit us. Comrades, you are hereby warned of this trend, which is quickly making its way to our shores.

APPOINTMENT OF THE MUNICIPAL MANAGER

Ladies and gentlemen, although I have picked up some noise, including from our detractors on the matter of the appointment of the Municipal Manager, I can assure you that the process to appoint the MM was open, fair and transparent. We first shortlisted five applicants and following a vigorous selection process undertaken by a well-respected independent assessment company, the results came back and the scores thereof are available in my Office.

My work is done now; it is now up to the new Municipal Manager to appoint his team of senior managers. I have given him a deadline of up until the end of March to complete this process. We cannot wait any longer as service delivery cannot be delayed. I have always shared my thinking of a caliber of people I want with the Municipal Manager - loyal, dedicated and selfless.

FUNCTIONALITY OF MMCs

I am aware that over the weekend, a contingent of our MMCs, DMMs and other officials attended a public meeting in Bophelong where a series of service delivery issues were discussed. While we encourage such gatherings, we should thread carefully that they do not weaken, disadvantage and belittle the role of ward councilors and ward committees.

At the Bophelong public meeting, our residents complained about several issues that have made their lives difficult – and issues they believe this administration can quickly resolve. These include:

  • Illegal electricity connections which have led to injuries of children and adults in the area,
  • Potholes affecting motorists in the area and speed humps that are not of the same height and width, thereby damaging vehicles,
  • Lack of road signage and markings,
  • Failure to cut grass at open public spaces has led to increased crime levels in the area,
  • Housing backlog – applicants from 1996 still on waiting list and hundreds more without title deeds for their properties,
  • Ageing storm-water systems which have led to massive floods in the streets, businesses and homes in the area,
  • Illegal traders, illegal dumping and enforcement of municipal by-laws
  • Access to recreational facilities – and the state of the local stadium and the community hall are saddening.

I know members of this Mayoral Committee will work with relevant departments, state owned entities and all stakeholders involved to try their best at attending to these issues, and many others which were raised at the meeting but not listed in my address this morning.

The public meeting in Bophelong proved that there is a massive detachment between this Mayoral Committee and the electorate. We need to see a lot more of such initiatives to remind all of us that we remain accountable to the electorate.

If needs be, each MMC must have a public activity every weekend and not only wait for mayoral outreach programmes. We must be seen amongst the people as this will enable us to remain in touch with the issues closest to their daily struggles.

Fellow Comrades, archived reports will never afford us the opportunity to witness the impact of our successes and failures on a first-hand basis. In the politics of oversight, nothing beats a little ground work to gather an eyewitness account of the service delivery challenges facing our people. This malicious compliance to paper-based reports will lead to our downfall, let us go to our people and show them that we remain a responsive local government of their choice.

Towards the latter part of 2016, we promised a number of our constituencies that we would come back to them after our initial engagement. I can tell you that our people do not forget easily. We should not wait to be reminded by protest marches of the commitments we have made.

My Office is in the process of putting together a one-on-one programme between myself and the MMCs to be announced in due course. This programme must also reflect on the plans of our MMCs and of which we are going to be discussing in depth at the Strategic Lekgotla.

Colleagues, you would remember that these all-important one-on-one sessions were postponed to give way to the People’s Assembly in December. This reminds me that the Office of the Municipal Manager and the Speaker still owe us our diaries as part of the corporate calendar which will carry all the important municipal events and programmes.

Fellow Comrades, we must revisit all commitments we made in our State of the Municipality Address and the Acceptance Speech delivered at the inaugural sitting of Council following our victory in the August 3rd 2016 Local Government Elections. I have already warned you that our people do not forget easily. We dare fail them.

In part, we committed ourselves to establishing a youth directorate and renaming the Eldorado Arts and Culture Precinct after our local TV and film legend, the late Nyembezi “Tears” Kunene, subject to all our renaming processes. We also promised to launch a direct communication with our people via an SMS line or a user-friendly mobile application that would allow us to drastically improve our turn-around times. There are a lot more commitments we have made and I now challenge this Mayoral Committee to ensure that we deliver on all promises we have made to our people, as announced in key public appearances and addresses. These commitments will form part of the agenda of the scheduled one-on-one sessions.

MAYORAL BURSARY COMMITTEE [MBC] AND THE MAYORAL INVESTMENT COUNCIL [MIC]

I am happy to announce the protracted and carefully-guarded process of appointing members of the Mayoral Bursary Committee [MBC] and the Mayoral Investment Council [MIC] has been completed. The members of both structures will be announced at our Council sitting scheduled for later this month.
I have asked for time to peruse a report produced by my Office into the process of appointing members of these committees and after I have applied my discretion, we shall release the names of individuals to serve on these structures, which I must say, some are present at this meeting.

Now that these committees are in place, I am looking forward to receiving scores of applications for the 2017 Mayoral Bursary Fund which has a R2-million budget to help deserving students. I have seen advertisements calling for applications for the fund in local media and I hope that our young people will make use of this opportunity.

For this reason the Council has endorsed a budget which brought a 100% increase of the Bursary Fund, from R1-million in 2016, to R2-million in 2017, proving again that we remain a municipality that is responsive to the needs of our young people.

SOCIAL MEDIA

We are observing that our social media platforms are littered with complaints from our residents about service delivery. Sadly, we have also picked up a trend that our officials would only attend to service delivery defects when the communication in our WhatsApp groups comes directly from me or the Municipal Manager.

This is unprecedented as myself and the MM cannot be everywhere. My Office is also studying a social media strategy document and its recommendations as compiled by our Communications Department, with the assistance of our auditors who have taken an in-depth look at our social media platforms – from how they are used to discovering ways to maximize their potential.

I hope this municipality can finally embrace social media to bridge the gap between the people and their municipality and this is very important in our maturing democracy.

CONDOLENCES

Colleagues, please allow me to pass my condolences to the families of two our workers who passed on earlier this year. Maseipati Mkhwanazi and Ntefeleng Melato were selfless workers who gave many years of their lives to this municipality and even beyond the grave, we thank them for their service and may their souls rest in eternal peace.

I also received the sad news of the passing on of the elder brother of PWC and PEC member, Cde. Qedani Mahlangu last week at Charlotte Maxeke Academic hospital. Mr Mafika Joseph Hlanze was laid to rest over the weekend at Kwazamokuhle township in Hendrina, Mpumalanga. May his soul rest in eternal peace.

We were also saddened by the untimely passing of jazz legend Mme Thandie Klaasen, who passed on two weeks ago following a lengthy battle with cancer. Mme Thandie’s music was a soundtrack of the struggle of our freedom and she will remembered as an icon. May her soul rest in eternal peace.

CONCLUSION

Against the backdrop of a Trump backlash, which saw worldwide condemnation on the day of his inauguration, outgoing US President Barak Obama uttered these words, as he spoke to men and women who had served him during his time in the White House for the last time, “One of the things I am proud about is that I think my basic character and outlook actually have not changed much. And people who are closest to me will tell you that the guy who came here is the same guy who is leaving. I am proud that I do not think I have lost touch.”

Obama was looking back at his legacy of eight years in the White House – His successes, failures and what he learned from his two terms as the nation’s Chief Executive and Commander-in-Chief. Sometimes I wonder, how will this mayoral committee be remembered? What will be our greatest achievement in our term of Office?

Lastly, I would like to thank Sedibeng District Municipality’s Executive Mayor and her “Operation Vala” Joint Task Team comprised of municipal officials and members of the Sedibeng Initiation Forum and SAPS. This team helped enforce by-laws and a ban on initiation schools in our region put in place by the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities. As a result, the festive season was a lot more peaceful, and most importantly, no lives were lost in unscrupulous initiation camps. This is a success as over the previous years, incidents of assault, murder and kidnapping at rogue initiation schools have claimed lives.

I thank you.

Important Numbers

Emfuleni Head Office

Mayor's Corner