Opening remarks by the Executive Mayor of Emfuleni Local Municipality, Cllr Mahole Simon Mofokeng during the 88th Council Sitting, Council Chamber, 31 January 2017

Councillor Mahole Simon MofokengGREETINGS AND OPENING REMARKS

Madam Speaker of Council, Councillor Maipato Tsokolibane, Madam Chief Whip of Council, Councillor Christina Sale, Members of the Mayoral Committee of the Emfuleni Local Municipality, Fellow Councillors, My special guests, Members of the media and the people of Emfuleni,

A very good morning to you all and welcome back to work! Our objective has not changed. Our primary objective as public representatives of the people of Emfuleni remains that of serving our communities in order to create a better life for them.

UNITY AND COHESION IN COUNCIL

Madam Speaker and Fellow Councilors, this Council meeting takes place 31 days into the New Year and marks our first for 2017. Our Council remains an assembly of representatives of our people summoned to drive a sustainable program of service delivery to our people. Ours is a body of people elected to serve the residents of this municipality diligently. We are only as strong as we are united and as weak as we are divided. When I delivered my Acceptance Speech on 17 August 2016, I proposed a truce and a peace accord between us, regardless of our political affiliation. That part of my speech was aimed at avoiding the scenes which plagued our last Council sitting in December.

That Council meeting resembled a despicable behavior which is becoming a norm in other Assemblies. The question I want to reiterate is whether we want to continue in that fashion? We must refrain from holding the wheels of service delivery at ransom.

This unacceptable and unruly conduct now wants to show its ugly head in our peaceful Council. While we may all differ in our political persuasions, we must at all times remember why our people from different political background and formations called upon us to represent their resounding will in this one Council.

I would like to reiterate my call that the electorate of this municipality has elected leadership from which they expect efficient, effective, sustainable and cost-effective delivery of basic services, which is the core function of our existence as a Council of a municipality.

Ladies and gentlemen, in order to achieve these noble goals, it must be understood that a harmonic relationship between the opposition and the ruling party does not mean the former are the lap dogs or stooges of the latter, but is in the interest of enduring efficiency, effectiveness and smooth running of policy-making and implementation process in the Council.

Therefore, a harmonic relationship between the ruling party and the opposition is a crucial cornerstone which ultimately determines our success or failure as a collective. This inter-party contract remains necessary for effective and efficient oversight and for us to deepen democracy. Our contract as parties represented in this Council must not be allowed to be a vehicle for manipulation and abuse by any one party – let alone any individual – no matter the positions we hold. Ours must be a contract founded on the premise of serving the people of Emfuleni.

Historical observations the world over have taught us that when the opposition is chaotic and vote against every decision in an attempt to play to the gallery in grandstanding, this is tantamount to weak governance with no legitimacy and institutional integrity.

Colleagues, but also when the opposite becomes true, where the majority party rams down the throats of the opposition, decisions that are disruptive and manipulative, democracy and good governance are weakened. In this term of office, we are looking forward to a festival of ideas and a battle of thoughts meant to take the people of Emfuleni forward because it is also through such robust engagements that all of us will emerge better people out of every meeting we attend. It is primarily for these reasons that I am leading our local cabinet to a strategic session from tomorrow, 1st to 3rd February. This lekgotla will, amongst others, begin to plant seeds of turning the municipality around and produce plans for the next five years.

At this sitting of Council, we will be tabling our 2015/2016 Annual Report. After today the work of our Municipal Public Accounts Committee can commence. We look forward to their oversight report within the 30 days as required by legislation.

THE MATTER OF WATER RESTRICTIONS

Colleagues and friends, the recent rains have led to a false sense of security on the part of our communities. In the minds of our people, with frequent rain and often flooding, the idea that we are still in a drought does not make sense to them.

The Vaal Dam is currently sitting at 63.4% which is a massive improvement when compared to the last quarter of 2016, when it seemed like the rains will never come. However, our municipality, like our colleagues in other municipalities in the Guateng Province, continues to implement water restrictions, as advised by the National Department of Water and Sanitation.

Since the introduction of water restrictions by the National Minister, all municipalities were set a target of achieving an overall 15% savings in their water usage. The regular meetings convened by Rand Water have revealed that Emfuleni is doing very badly at reaching this target. After initially getting close to the 15%, we have now fallen back to a 9% savings only. The implications are that we are under treat of having additional water pressure reduction in our area.

Allow me to take a minute to clarify a common misunderstanding on the part of our communities. A 15% reduction does not mean a 15% reduction of pressure at each tap. This would only be possible if every home has their own individual supply line from Rand Water. Water is a very heavy substance. As it travels over distance, and if it has to be pushed upwards to high-lying areas, its pressure reduces. Areas that are high lying and at a distance from the Rand Water supply lines barely have enough pressure even when there is no pressure reduction at all. Any reduction in pressure at the Rand Water supply point, and some areas will have either no pressure especially during peak take-off periods such as the mornings when we all wake up and start to flush toilets and start taking morning showers. Our challenges are made worse by the lack of water reservoirs and the poor condition of many of our PRV’s or Pressure Regulating Valves.
This has led to intermittent water supply to several areas in Emfuleni, with taps running dry for hours during the day and water pressure has been low in some areas. In recent days and weeks, Emfuleni Local Municipality has been inundated with calls from residents who complained about the lack of water at their residential areas.

This fellow Councillors remains a direct challenge to our Ward Councillors and Ward Committees who must take a leading role in Civic Education.

Comrades and colleagues, our Ward Councillors must assist this Council by playing a critical role of disseminating and improving communications with the electorate and rate-payers. I am aware that our Communications Department has been using electronic media, local radio stations in particular, to try and warn residents of pending water cuts in their areas.

I am equally aware that disruptions of water supply in some areas are not necessarily as a result of water restrictions, but technical faults and gremlins in our water network. I am also mindful of the fact that electricity outages are also not as a result of our failure – but the consequences of the dirty work of “izinyokanyoka” – who are clearly becoming enemies of development and progress.

Ladies and gentlemen, such a case was seen at ‘Diventjheng’ in Sharpeville where residents staged a protest demanding water supply to be restored in their area after months of intermittent water supply. I have learned through our Interdepartmental Communications Forum on social media that the matter has since been attended to. I would like to use this opportunity to plead with our Ward Councillors to report service delivery faults in their areas, and thank those who are already doing so. Your efforts on the ground, as our eyes and ears offer us the opportunity to learn about challenges first hand, before they become part of community protest action. The issue of the regular sittings of Community Public Meetings cannot be overemphasized. This is one vehicle which is necessary to enhance our social contract with our people.

Water is the fountain of all nature and we appear to forget that the water cycle and the life cycle are one. This precious natural resource is central to the wellbeing of all residents of our municipality and the world over. Let us all support efforts to save water.

TALKING TO OUR ONLINE COMMUNITIES

As smartphones have allowed us to have our computers, emails, social media feeds in our pockets at all times, social media is changing the way we communicate and the way we are perceived, both positively and negatively. Every time you post a photo, or update your status, you are contributing to your own digital footprint and brand.

I have witnessed a dramatic increase in the number of residents who chose to engage this municipality through social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter. Our accounts, handles and pages on these platforms are littered with complaints from our residents about service delivery.

Sadly colleagues, 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 remain hopeful that 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. We must listen to our people and use their mediums of communication to respond to service delivery faults reported. More and more of our residents are joining the exciting world of digital online communications and we can ill-afford to be left behind. If conventional methods are not working, then let us try modern communication strategies to interact with our people.

SERVICE DELIVERY RESPONSE TIMES

Comrades and colleagues, when in the hands of passionate municipal workers, service delivery should be interactive, responsive and continuous. We are a municipality which employs 2 816 workers and on my way to this gathering here today I asked myself this question: Are our employees working hard or hardly working? As Council, we owe it our people to improve our turn-around time in attending to service delivery defects and our employees are crucial in this regard. In doing our work, we do so not as a favor to our communities, but through an understanding that it is their hard earned money that we are paid our salaries with.

Emfuleni Local Municipality continues to deliver clean drinking water, sanitation, electricity and waste removal to 90% of households because our core function as a responsive local government is the sustained provision and maintenance of basic services. This makes communication between the municipality and its residents critical for it is when government fails to connect with its people that misinterpretations and misunderstandings creep in, leading to protest action even over miniature issues which could have easily been resolved by an open communications philosophy.

During one of my unscheduled oversight trips, as I drove down Boundary Road, into the heart of Evaton to pass the iconic Muthi House, I smiled alone in the car because a massive pothole I had seen at the traffic intersection on the corner of Adams and Boundary Road a week earlier had disappeared. I smiled because I knew our people had seen pothole and dealt with it even before motorists complained about it.

On the other side of my car window, residents waved and smiled at me, you could see the hope in their eyes and almost immediately, I could feel their expectations piling heavily on my shoulders. And this made me wonder whether our people, our workers who are the faces of this administration and the people driving our cars and wearing our name tags, do they not see the water-logged and pot-hole riddled Selbourne Road in Small Farms?

After all, this is where they drive in their jobs every day. Are they waiting for a media enquiry or complaints from motorists and residents before they attend to this problem? So, I shall ask you again, are our employees working hard or hardly working?

The tragedy with Emfuleni Local Municipality is the fact that it is our staffers, our workers, who ideally should be brand ambassadors, who are letting us down. Civil service used to be a call to greatness, a call to excellence meant only for a chosen few, and we need to instill a great deal of responsibility, discipline and pride in our workers.

Fellow Councillors and the people of Emfuleni, at a public meeting held in Bophelong two weeks ago where a contingent of our MMCs, DMMs and other officials attended, 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 Councillors 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 Council 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,
  • Lack of access to or no recreational facilities – and that the dire state of the local stadium and the community hall.

I know members of this Council 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. That is why we are here Colleagues, to help improve the lives of our people.

APPOINTMENT OF THE MUNICIPAL MANAGER

Ladies and gentlemen, I would like to congratulate Mr. Yunus Chamda, our newly-appointed Municipal Manager. Although I have learned of recent criticism in this regard, I can assure you that the process to appoint the Municipal Manager 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 2017 to complete this process of advertising the positions, so that by the 1st of July 2017, the new fully-fledged team of SMT hits the ground running. We cannot wait any longer as service delivery cannot be delayed or postponed. I have always shared my thinking of a caliber of people I want with the Municipal Manager - loyal, dedicated, hardworking and selfless. Now it is up to the MM to deliver on this mandate.

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 are as follows:

Members of the Mayoral Investment Council [MIC] Members of the Mayoral Bursary Committee [MBC]

  • Cllr. Mahole Simon Mofokeng (Chairperson)
  • Cllr. Thembile Nquba (Deputy Chairperson)
  • Cllr. Penny Sengoatsi (Deputy Chairperson)
  • Cllr. Robert Thema (Deputy Chairperson)
  • Cllr. Busisiwe Mncube (Deputy Chairperson)
  • Dr. Gary Immelman (Business)
  • Prof. Muhiya Lukamba (Academic)
  • Prof. Danie Meyer (Academic)
  • Mr. Mahlomola Mathaba (NGO)
  • Mr. Klippies Kritzinger (Business)
  • Ms. Refilwe Teleka (Youth sector)
  • Ms. Conny Letlhake (Community leader)
  • Ms. Nonhlanhla Sekgapane (Women sector)
  • Mr. Frikkie Botha (Business)
  • Ms. Gladys Raditsela (Disability)
  • Dr. Molefi Olifant (Business)
  • Mr. Mosheledi Papane (Community leader)
  • Mr. Nicholas Khumalo (Support personnel)

Fellow Councillors, now that the report on the appointment of these committees is in place, I am looking forward to awarding bursaries to the scores of applicants for the 2017 academic year which has a R2-million budget to help deserving students.

Colleagues, let me take this opportunity to thank the Task Team Committee of Church Sites for its contribution in our efforts to strengthen working relations with the religious community. We can never emphasize enough the work of the members of this team.

CONDOLENCES

Colleagues, please allow me to pass my condolences to the families of two of our workers who passed on earlier this year. Maseipati Mkhwanazi, Ntefeleng Melato and David Mohlamme 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.

We were also saddened by the untimely passing of jazz legend Mme Thandie Klaasen and gospel musician Lundi Tyamara. Mme Thandie’s music was a soundtrack of the struggle of our freedom and she will be remembered as an icon. Lundi was a talented singer whose music touched the lives of many South Africans.

Lastly colleagues, 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.

Madam Speaker, fellow Councilors, as mentioined earlier, the Mayoral Committee will be hard at work in the next three days in a Lekgotla to do a full and complete analysis of our work. This will include a frank and deep review of our financial position, our service delivery methodology and performance, our reporting and accountability systems, the way forward on our organizational structure review and the submissions that Emfuleni will make towards our district-wide Growth and Development Strategy which will be known as GDS-03.

We will produce a full report of the Lekgotla for your engagement.

I thank you.

Emfuleni Head Office

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