AfriForum co-ordinator in the Northern Cape, Lize-Marie Smit, handed over the memorandum to Coghsta head of department, Bafedile Lenkoe. Picture: Danie van der Lith/African News Agency (ANA)

Kimberley - Municipalities in the Northern Cape will be expected to cover the costs of bussing 2 000 people from the province to Pretoria for next week’s presidential inauguration.

This is according to AfriForum Northern Cape who handed over a 'Stop the Bus' petition to the provincial Department of Co-operative Governance, Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs (Coghsta).

The petition calls on the department to refuse the presidential request that municipalities carry the cost of bussing thousands of people to Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria for the presidential inauguration next week.

The petition was handed over by the AfriForum co-ordinator in the Northern Cape, Lize-Marie Smit, to Coghsta head of department Bafedile Lenkoe on Wednesday.

Smit said that the petition stemmed from a request by the Presidency that municipalities from each province in the country carry the cost of bussing people to Loftus Versfeld for the presidential inauguration on May 25.

This year’s presidential inauguration is expected to be the biggest and most expensive in South African history, costing an estimated R120 million. “Besides this, the Presidency has in addition announced that municipalities from each of the nine provinces must transport 2 000 people (altogether 18 000 people) to the Loftus Versfeld stadium at their own expense. In light of these events, AfriForum launched its ‘Stop the Bus’ campaign,” the organisation stated.

“We respectfully submit that this is a waste of money and a financial burden that cannot be borne by already indebted municipalities in the Northern Cape,” Smit said.

She further requested that this request be refused “as municipal funds could be better applied”.

Smit indicated that municipal debt nationally amounted to R138.2 billion by the end of 2017 and that, according to the 2019 Budget Review, 113 of the 278 municipalities in South Africa have unfunded budgets for 2019.

“This means that municipalities already do not have enough money to cover their expenses for the financial year. The Budget Review further states that every municipality is responsible for the prioritisation of its resources and the reduction of wasteful expenditure,” Smit said, adding that the Presidency’s request did not comply with this directive.

AfriForum has pointed out that many municipalities, especially in rural towns, don’t even provide basic services to residents.

“Irregular or no water supply, the non-removal of waste and raw sewage running in the streets are only a few of the consequences that residents living in rural areas must face on a daily basis due to the failure of municipalities to perform their constitutional obligation. It is unfair and irresponsible of the Presidency to additionally place this burden on municipalities,” Morné Mostert, AfriForum’s head of local government affairs, said.

Residents were encouraged to sign the petition drawn up by AfriForum, to prevent municipalities from getting into debt even further.

“AfriForum urges the Northern Cape Department of Coghsta to refuse the Presidency’s request to municipalities as this money could be better spent to pay for the basic needs of citizens,” the petition states.

Smit added that similar petitions had also been handed over to the Presidency, as well as Coghsta offices in all other provinces.

Lenkoe accepted the petition and told Smit that he would also forward copies to Northern Cape Premier Sylvia Lucas.

This year’s presidential inauguration breaks from the tradition of hosting the event at the seat of government at the Union Buildings in Pretoria.

Director-General of the Presidency, Dr Cassius Lubisi, said the move to Loftus Versfeld stadium would ensure that more members of the public gained access to the celebrations, which coincidentally falls on Africa Day.

“We want to ensure that more people are able to attend at the same venue.”

The ceremony will be attended by the heads of state from the continent as well as several other VIPs.

According to the South African Government News Agency (SA News) Gauteng province, together with its neighbouring provinces - the Free State, Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the North West - will bus in over 30 000 members of the public to witness the celebrations.

In addition, the stadium will also accommodate 10 000 public walk-ins on the day.

“It will be an exciting, inclusive event, which allows more people to attend and enjoy democracy,” said Lubisi.

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