KZN MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Sipho Hlomuka. File photo: Zanele Zulu/African News Agency (ANA)
KZN MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Sipho Hlomuka. File photo: Zanele Zulu/African News Agency (ANA)

KZN drowns in R10bn infrastructure backlog

By Thobeka Ngema Time of article published Mar 24, 2021

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Durban - THE KwaZulu-Natal Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) is sitting with a R10.83 billion backlog to address infrastructure in its municipalities.

Cogta arrived at the figure when they assessed existing water, sanitation and electricity infrastructure in all 10 KZN districts.

Affected district municipalities are Ugu, Umgungundlovu, uThukela, Umkhanyakude, King Cetshwayo and Harry Gwala.

This was revealed in a written parliamentary question by the Democratic Alliance (DA) to Cogta MEC Sipho Hlomuka.

According to the breakdown of the backlogs, R2 788 686 860 is needed for sanitation, R3 982 685 675 for water and R659 746 770 for electricity, which excludes Eskom supplied areas (Msunduzi and eThekwini).

Road infrastructure was not included in the assessment. These apparent omissions related to the extent of the networks and limitations in the funding available for assessment.

DA Cogta spokesperson Chris Pappas said they were worried that there could be a total infrastructure collapse in a number of municipalities in the province.

“The harsh reality is that with budget cuts and a shrinking tax base, along with the government's insistence on hanging on to failed policies, the funds needed are unlikely to materialise any time soon. This was while almost all KZN municipalities are struggling to keep the lights on, water flowing out of taps and sewage out of the streets,” said Pappas.

He said the biggest contributors to the failure of basic infrastructure in the province was a lack of capacity due to cadre deployment, financial mismanagement, and under-expenditure on maintenance. “The result is a decline in municipalities which directly contributes to lack of investment, economic growth and access to opportunities.”

Hlomuka said their first step was to identify the extent of the maintenance challenges.

“Primarily, the strategy now which is still being developed, revolves around planning, enhancing revenue collection and securing financial and human resources,” said Hlomuka.

“The condition assessment and the maintenance dilemma has already been presented to the National and Provincial Treasuries as well as the South African Local Government Association (Salga). Proposals have been made regarding use of existing grant mechanisms and measures to improve municipal budgetary allocations to repairs and maintenance,” he said.

Hlomuka said the KZN Provincial Water Master Planning process, under the leadership of Cogta and several stakeholders, joined forces and pooled expertise in formulating the KZN Provincial Water Master Plan (PWMP). This was akin to a comprehensive audit of existing water resources, distribution networks and water challenges up to ward level, but also outlines workable short, medium and long term solutions to the province’s water needs through the construction of new infrastructure, the refurbishment of the degenerated existing infrastructure and ongoing operation and maintenance to ensure sustainability.

Regarding electricity, he said Cogta had embarked on a collaboration exercise, led by the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, to develop a KZN Provincial Electrification Master Plan that will, among other things, identify electricity infrastructure maintenance gaps and associated budgetary requirements. The plan is envisioned to be completed by November 2021.

Earlier this month, Finance MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube said for 2021/22, Cogta would receive a budget of R1.8 billion.

Dube-Ncube said the department would monitor the implementation of service delivery programmes relating to electricity, water and sanitation, indigent policies, as well as operational and maintenance plans. The department will continue with the PWMP under the water, sanitation and electricity backlog study which focuses on existing backlogs, as well as assessing the state of existing infrastructure in the province.

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