Opening remarks by the Executive Mayor of the Emfuleni Local Municipality Cllr Mahole Simon Mofokeng during the 89th Council Sitting, Council Chamber, 28 February 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,
Members of the media and the people of Emfuleni,

A good morning to you all and welcome to the 89th Council Meeting of the Emfuleni Local Municipality.

TEEN-SUICIDE PREVENTION WEEK

Madam Speaker and Fellow Councilors, this Council meeting takes place 58 days into the 2017, a clear indication that we are quickly approaching the end of the first quarter of the year. We are gathered here during a week dedicated to the prevention of teen suicide, a social scourge that is fast becoming a silent killer in our communities. We must speak out against this growing trend of suicide and encourage all young people affected by depression and anxiety to seek urgent assistance.

MAYORAL WARD OUTREACH PROGRAMME

Let me start this address by thanking all our MMCs, Councillors including from the opposition benches and our senior managers who joined me in Ward 24 on Sunday, 26 February as part of our Mayoral Ward Outreach Program. We were in an area popularly known as “Mkhelele” where residents packed a community hall to capacity in a successful public meeting.

This outreach programme started on a very high note as the venue was overflowing and some residents were made to listen and participate from outside the hall – a clear indication that our people have been yearning for such an opportunity for a while now.

I was particularly surprised by how the community of Ward 24 accepted our aim of installing smart meters in the area which will help us drive up revenue and drive down financial losses to unaccounted water.

I have targeted a number of wards to speak to residents about the payment of municipal accounts – with an objective to improve our revenue collection which will enable us to further strengthen the roll-out of our service delivery turn-around strategy themed, “Getting the Basics Right; Our Programme for Restoration”.
After realizing that there are widening gaps in the period the municipality hosts face-to-face interaction with community, I found it fit to initiate a ward-based programme – to further strengthen community participation in local government, a right of the people enshrined in our Constitution.

After the turnout on Sunday, I strongly believe that this programme has the potential to become a fundamental series of public meetings which may go a long way into the build-up to the State of the Municipality Address which is scheduled for the 25th of May 2017. These public meetings will be announced as and when they sit. I invite all of you across political divide to attend these meetings.

WARD COMMITTEES INDUCTION PROGRAMME

Colleagues, it gives me great pleasure in congratulating Madam Speaker, Councillor Maipato Tsokolibane on hosting a successful two-day induction for our Ward Committees. Members of Ward Committees from across all our wards in Emfuleni were given basic training on how to run active and compliant Ward Committees in their respective wards. Our Constitution guarantees residents right to participate in local government – a sphere of government closest to them.

GETTING OUR BASICS RIGHT; OUR PROGRAMME FOR RESTORATION

Colleagues, we remain a responsive municipality that listens to its people, and to prove this, we have launched massive road construction projects in our municipality. Despite our financial challenges as a municipality that is faced with a chronic problem of underpayment of services, we are soldiering forward to improve the lives of our people.

I am proud to announce that in the next few weeks, five contractors would be on site building roads. By August this year, we would have a further six contractors starting work on more roads, turning Emfuleni into a massive construction site.

We have also undertaken a massive roads-resealing project that is currently running in Bedworth Park, Three Rivers, Vereening, Vanderbijlpark, whilst at the same time we continue to wage a war against potholes.

Fellow councillors, however during my routine oversight visits to our wards, I saw potholes in Sebokeng and Evaton. We will intensify our efforts in making sure that all road users are safe on our roads. During my oversight-work, I also happened to drive along the corner of Boundary Road and Moshoeshoe Street, just before the Zone 12 stop-sign in Sebokeng, I was met with massive potholes which were caused by a recent water leak on the side of the road.

Colleagues, this is the reason we need to keep improving our turn-around times in attending to defects – because when water and sewer spillages go unattended, they cause further harm to our infrastructure and greatly inconvenience our residents. This is the reason we must keep reminding our workers, especially those in service delivery departments to stop doing the right thing the wrong way.

Madam Speaker, with our service delivery fast tracking strategy "Getting the Basics Right, Our Programme for Restoration", we aspire for the ELM where there shall be no potholes, the ELM where the trees shall be trimmed and grass cut, the ELM where there shall be no sewer and water leaks, the ELM where there shall be no electricity powers failures, the ELM where there shall be no heaps of waste, and where our communities will be joining hands with us in combating vandalism to public property and cable theft. We are also delivering on several infrastructure projects aimed at improving the lives of our people and they need the protection of our communities as they are meant for them.

Madam Speaker, this is the reason why I have been travelling the length and breadth of our municipality visiting all municipal projects and works sites to monitor progress or regress made. It is these oversight visits which help us to ensure the completion of projects, which have made headlines on local and mainstream media in recent weeks. Working with relevant stakeholders and contractors, we have restarted projects that had been previously halted by labor and contractor competency issues.

It is when all these basics are right that we will be able to restore the confidence, dignity and integrity of our people thereby attracting investment to create jobs to make a dent on the triple threat of unemployment, poverty and inequality.

LIFTING WATER RESTRICTIONS

Colleagues, we watched on Sunday as two sluice gates were opened at the Vaal Dam to ease growing pressure on the Vaal River System with the Vaal Dam reaching 100% capacity this week, owing to recent persistent heavy rains. For the first time in six years, the Vaal Dam is full.

Four months ago, the Vaal Dam was at a low 26%, a situation which forced the National Department of Water and Sanitation to instruct all municipalities in the country, especially those in the Gauteng Province to enforce level two water restrictions.

Speaking at the Vaal Dam at a press briefing at the Vaal Dam in Denneysville on Sunday, the Honorable Minister Nomvula Mokonyane announced that the lifting of water restrictions would be gazetted soon. This will bring relief to our residents who had been severely affected by water restrictions which often meant water was only available at their homes during the early hours of the morning or late in the evenings. We hope the end of water restrictions would ease the intermittent water supply to our residents.

Madam Speaker, Minister Mokonyane has urged all municipalities to now turn their attention to the reticulation infrastructure and water preservation efforts. This means we must intensify our war on leaks to conserve water. This also means that our Communications Department, which has been doing work in informing communities about water leaks, must now prepare to update our people about the looming lifting of water restrictions, which I am sure will be good news for our communities.

VIOLENCE AGAINST FOREIGN NATIONALS

Ladies and gentlemen, our country is in ‘panic mode’ following wide-spread violence against foreign nationals. I am told that even here in our shores, on Sunday night, aggrieved residents of Vereeniging staged a protest demanding all drug-dens and brothels in the area to be shut down. For several months now, the people of Vereeniging have called on Vereeniging SAPS to protect and serve them – and at one point even delivering a memorandum of demands to the police station to highlight their concerns.

This sporadic violence has made two things very clear: That not all foreigners are criminals and that crime has no nationality. The situation remains tense in that area, like it is in some parts of our capital City of Tshwane and parts of City of Johannesburg. I would like to urge our residents to refrain from acts of vigilantism which would lead to their genuine concerns to be lost in the violence.

Madam Speaker, our deafening silence on this matter of xenophobic violence is shocking. Let us take to our social media platforms and say #StopXenophobia. If there are criminals in our midst, then let us allow the police to do their work.

Failure by the police to act on crime will fuel attacks in our towns and townships where foreign nationals reside. This, coupled with irresponsible and reckless statements made by some political leaders will lead us to a situation of where brother fears brother and brother hates brother, as Africans turn their backs on social cohesion.

I call on the members of the Sedibeng Cluster of the SAPS to restore law and order in Vereeniging, by raiding brothels and drug-dens before we see a repeat of what transpired in Rosettenville, where residents took the law into their own hands and burned down homes believed to house prostitutes and drug dealers.

MAYORAL LEKGOTLA AND SOMA

We have never been any clearer about what needs to be done to turn around this municipality, having emerged from a successful Extended Mayoral Workshop, stronger, wiser and united like never before. And, on that score I wish to thank all those who attended. Ours is now to reconcile the recommendations of the Extended Mayoral Workshop with the plans of our municipality aimed at improving service delivery and ensuring good governance.

The last two months have been eventful and have gone a long way in shaping the future of this country and that of our municipality, with the State of the Nation Address, and most recently, the State of the Province Address now behind us. At the SoPA, the first in the 5th democratic local government administration, Premier Makhura referred to a need to revitalize our economy and accelerate social cohesion. I have welcomed the Premier’s commitment to ensure that our District is integrated into the metropolitan economy of the Gauteng City Region.

Colleagues, My Office and that of the MM will start work to prepare for our Mayoral Lekgotla, which should sit within a month, and the State of the Municipality Address (SoMA).

COMMUNICATION

Ladies and gentlemen, communication is at the heart of service delivery – if our people cannot access our municipality to report defects, this sharply increases the occurrence of protests. It is for this reason we have to investigate ways of improving communication with communities, whether via social media applications or SMS service, including our call centres.

In addition we note the following efforts to improve communications:

  • On a regular basis we need to include a PDF newsletter to go out with our electronic municipal accounts. It is low cost and targets our main stakeholders directly.
  • The SMS facility that now exists in Metsi, Electricity and the general complaints SMS line must be popularized.
  • Nothing can replace the power of human feedback. The MM has started to establish a small unit located in our M&E department to do direct telephone and direct contact feedback to residents on complaints and progress made on these.
  • In collaboration with Gauteng Provincial Government and Wits University, we are developing a Smart App for consumers. We look forward to the test version.
  • Colleagues, let us all play our respective roles to make sure that we become a successful collective, a team of winners who worked tirelessly to turn this municipality around.

EMPLOYMENT OF SENIOR MANAGERS

Madam Speaker and Colleagues, we will be rolling out the appointment of Senior Managers in 2 phases. Adverts will appear in the next few weeks for the following 4 positions:

  • Chief Director Utilities,
  • Chief Financial Officer,
  • DMM Basic Services, and
  • DMM IPD.

As most contracts expire in June 2017, the next phase will include the remaining positions for commencement on 01 July 2017.
All candidates will have to compete in an open competitive process and meet the necessary Competency Assessment requirements.

We have also noted a worrying development in Three Rivers where property owners have started converting homes into student accommodation. While we are mindful of the need for student accommodation, the blatant transgression of our zoning and of by-laws cannot be tolerated. The water, electrical and sewer infrastructure in Three Rivers is also under severe stress and we cannot add further uncontrolled stress on the system.

I and MEC Mashatile, were touched by an article which appeared in the Citizen newspaper a week ago, of a 100 year old granny, mme Selina Mahlasela from Sharpeville who have been on the waiting list for an RDP house for 20 years. I then instructed my Office to look into the matter urgently, and they will be working with the Office of MMC Moshoaluba to ensure that all our people enjoy access to the benefits of our democracy.

Let me also announce that in the next Council meeting, I will be announcing the outcomes of the Religious Tasked-team on disposal of land to churches and the Bursary Committee.

MESSAGES OF CONDOLENCES

Madam Speaker and Colleagues, on Saturday, 25th February we woke to the sad news of the passing of human rights activist and former Western Cape High Court Judge, Essa Moosa. As one of the founding fathers of our freedom, Moosa lived his life championing the fight against human rights for over four decades. He passed on Sunday morning following a short illness.

A week ago we received saddening news informing us about the departure of Bishop Moloi from this world. This man of the cloth will not only be missed by the St. Paul congregation in Small Farm and other parts of our region, but by the whole community of Sedibeng which he served selflessly and diligently for many years.

I would also like to send my heartfelt condolences to the family of Sello Mophuthing, who was one of our workers in the Facilities Department. I must say, Emfuleni has lost a number of employees since the beginning of the year and this is worrying. Lastly Sibusiso, the son of the Chairperson of the External Audit, Mr. Sidwell Mofokeng is late as well and will be buried on Friday, 3rd March 2017 in Boksburg.d

May the souls of the departed rest in eternal peace.

I thank you.

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Mayor's Corner