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PRESIDENTIAL IMBIZO

North West residents decry service delivery failures during Ramaphosa visit, demand urgent action

North West residents decry service delivery failures during Ramaphosa visit, demand urgent action
From left: Acting North West Premier Nono Maloyi; Cogta Minister Thembi Nkadimeng; President Cyril Ramaphosa; and Minister of Water and Sanitation Senzo Mchunu during a site visit of the construction of the Ikageng Reservoir Water Treatment Works upgrade during the president's visit to North West, 20 October 2023. (Photo: GCIS)

During President Cyril Ramaphosa’s visit to North West on Friday to evaluate the government’s commitments made during his inaugural Presidential Imbizo in March 2022, residents expressed concerns about service delivery problems and irregular expenditure in municipalities.

Community members from the Dr Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality gathered in a marquee at the Ikageng Stadium in Potchefstroom on Friday, 20 October, hoping to get a glimpse of SA’s first citizen and the ministers in attendance. More importantly, they desperately wanted to be heard.

President Cyril Ramaphosa was visiting North West to assess the government commitments made during his inaugural Presidential Imbizo in March 2022.

Residents in the province have been grappling with challenges including water shortages, rising crime, deteriorating infrastructure, damaged roads, corruption and sewage spillages. These issues have become increasingly common in areas like Mahikeng, where the situation has not significantly improved despite the government’s commitments.

Government commitments

Ramaphosa pledged in March 2022 to prioritise service delivery and focus on an integrated approach to improve the lives of the people and create job opportunities. These commitments were a response to the province being placed under administration in 2018 because of governance system failures and social unrest. The district development model was introduced in 2019 as a government plan to rescue collapsing municipalities.

Despite these promises, residents reported that little had changed, and municipalities continue to record billions of rands in irregular expenditure. In the JB Marks municipality, the Treasury withheld R60-million meant for service delivery due to underperformance, leading to poor water and electricity delivery.

Community testimonials

Residents in Potchefstroom expressed their frustration, saying there had been no significant improvements in basic services. Issues with the electricity and water supply, as well as youth unemployment, continue to plague the region.

“We are dying in our communities and government has been very quiet about these matters and seem not to be doing much,” said Nomhle Matebele, a resident of Khuma in North West.

“As the youth, we humbly ask for urgent interventions when it comes to the NYDA [National Youth Development Agency]. When we approach them for jobs and any other programmes they refer us from pillar to post, demanding that we have certain things or attributes to provide educational support services to enable youth to be globally competitive,” said Nomhle Matebele, a resident of Khuma in North West. 

Lucas Phiri, a resident of Ventersdorp, said corruption in the Department of Education affected the availability of resources at schools.

“Principals are eating monies at schools meant to better the education of our children. When we ask as concerned members of the community and parents we don’t get answers as to what happens to the government funds donated to schools. We demand thorough investigations and engagements on the matters,” he said at the imbizo.

Another speaker said: “I come from Matlosana, a historically mining town. Some of the houses stand in dolomite which threatens stability of the structure and our general wellbeing. Some of the issues in the area include sewer spillages, water and electricity challenges. We would greatly appreciate to be placed in more safe and secure areas.

“Despite the province being under administration, as per section 100, we still have a lot of issues and we feel that section 100 is not working for the people of North West.”

In Madibeng, reportedly South Africa’s “worst municipality”, residents lack access to water while millions of rands have been wasted, and ordinary citizens pay the price for a lack of basic services. The Ditsobotla Local Municipality continues to struggle with ghost workers, a persistent problem in other municipalities as well.

Government’s response

Acting North West Premier Nono Maloyi said 80% of the issues raised in the previous imbizo had been resolved, particularly those related to incomplete projects in areas like roads, and water and sanitation. 

Maloyi said that to tackle the issue of unpaid services, the government planned to install prepaid meters in households and businesses.

“In the previous imbizo, there were a lot of issues brought up. We categorised how we planned to resolve them in the form of short-, medium- and long-term time frames. I’m happy to say we have made progress of achieving 80% and we are left with 20%,” he said.

“By December we would have made 95% progress because we have started with the work and every Friday have launched projects in local municipalities to check progress made by each municipality. So far, we have been to 10 municipalities and are left with eight and should be done in December — then we analyse the problems.”

Nikiwe Julia Num, the district mayor of the Dr Kenneth Kaunda District Municipality, acknowledged challenges with infrastructure and the need to expand capacity to serve growing communities.

“We have had challenges in terms of our senior management at the local municipality level and that delayed the process of planning and concluding all the work that needed to be done before we even started projects … There are backlogs. 

“We appreciate and accept that there is a challenge with the bulk of our infrastructure in the district; however, the … work that has been undertaken and various interventions by the departments are now seeing an emergence of capacity. The critical issue is to extend the existing capacity.” 

In his address to the imbizo, Ramaphosa acknowledged the concerns of the people of North West, emphasising the government’s commitment to addressing the province’s challenges. He highlighted improvements in provincial audits and ongoing efforts to strengthen municipalities.

Key projects 

Several government projects are ongoing in North West, including:

  • Thuntsha Lerole: Launched in July 2023, it aims to address service delivery challenges by mobilising communities and providing constant feedback on service provision progress.
  • Operation Bulela Metsi: A water project launched by Ramaphosa and Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu to address water issues in the province.
  • Operation Thunsta Tsela: This focuses on road issues, including potholes, to improve access to schools, workplaces and public amenities, creating employment opportunities for beneficiaries of the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP).

These projects aim to tackle the persisting issues in North West and work toward fulfilling the government’s promises made during the previous Presidential Imbizo, ensuring a better future for the province’s residents.

Election campaign

However, Kedibone Phago, a humanities professor at North-West University, said the Presidential Imbizo appeared to be a veiled campaign for the ANC ahead of next year’s election. He said political leaders should have used the opportunity to address real community issues, rather than exploit these problems for political gain.

“I believe it’s crucial for our leaders to recognise that communities are facing genuine problems, and manipulating these issues for political campaigning and expediency is not in the best interest of society. Issues such as road infrastructure, the persistent potholes we encounter daily, and problems with water access for many communities are fundamental challenges that should not exist.

“The root cause of these problems often lies with the very same political leaders who have mismanaged funds and engaged in corruption. This has severely compromised service delivery, and it appears that they are indifferent to these critical issues.”

Phago emphasised the need for more substantial discussions about local economic development initiatives that can bring about lasting, positive change in the lives of North West residents. The focus should be on creating employment opportunities and making economic activities viable for the benefit of the community. Rather than one-time, ad hoc arrangements, sustainable solutions should be the primary objective. DM

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