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The executive mayor of Ekurhuleni, Mondli Gungubele, has warned rioters to stop destroying property – or face the full force of the law.
“What they are doing is unacceptable,” he said, “they burnt down and destroyed a R12 million customer care centre in KwaThema that we built to allow people to access services, now old women have to walk to Heidelberg.
“It’s totally unacceptable to break things, to stop children from going to school.”
Gungubele said yesterday he understood the desperation of the people, but he could never condone what had been happening in KwaThema and Vosloorus in recent days.
“We all have desperate histories,” he said, referring to his own past as an activist in the struggle against apartheid, “but you don’t destroy the very things that actually provide you with a service.”
Gungubele was particularly angry since he and his council had spent weeks speaking to residents across the mega metropolis of nine smaller towns, from businesses to residents in informal settlements, to hear what their needs were.
This was why he said he was sure, too, that some people were using the ruse of service protests just to pursue their own agendas for anarchy.
“We know that the challenge is to keep telling those who are honestly concerned about service delivery just what we are doing for them.”
Gungubele made these comments while announcing the metros budget which will be driven by the R23 billion it expects to generate from the sale of water and electricity, property rates and the balance from the government grant.
The challenge, he said, was threefold: to keep up service delivery standards; to transform the sprawling metropolis; and become a preferred destination for investors.
“One of our biggest challenges is productive capacity, our unemployment rate is 27 percent, of which 92 percent of that is either unskilled or semi-skilled.”
The decreasing number of breadwinners in Ekurhuleni threatened the revenue stream, therefore the challenge for the municipality was to develop the local economy by creating those skills and making people employable.
Councillor Moses Makwakwa, member of the mayoral committee for finance, said the key was to end the poverty trap while maintaining the current assets and investing in new infrastructure.
“There will be no compromises on broken street lights or potholes; look at our potholes, they don’t become major ones because we have a schedule of maintenance. All our roads are fine.”
The council’s billing was under control, too, because of a very strict policy on defaulters. The outstanding debt has been put out to tender for collection, while the municipality has put R13.7 million aside as incentives to those who are paying their accounts, especially people in very poor communities who ensure that they always pay their bills, and for developers who take over derelict buildings and refurbish them.
“We’re taking vigorous steps to get people to pay for services. We are not saying we don’t have problems, but we are stable,” he said.
“It’s not how big your budget is, but how you spend it. We’re not trying to be Joburg or Tshwane, we don’t have all the resources, but if we can turn our economy around and attract investment, we will change the direction of our city
,” Gungubele said.