DA wants money ring-fenced as Harrismith services 'collapse'

By ANA Reporter Time of article published Dec 17, 2019

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DURBAN - The DA in the Free State will be tabling proposals in the Maluti-a-Phofung Council and the Free State Legislature to force the ANC-led provincial government and municipality to ring-fence funds for service delivery. 

According to DA MPL Leona Kleynhans, the move was necessary following "ANC mismanagement" leading to a "total collapse" of services in Harrismith. 

Maluti-a-Phofung was placed under administration in February last year after failing to honour about R2.2 billion in Eskom and water debt. 

The Greater Harrismith area, including the Tshiame Special Economic Zone, had been plagued for almost a week by water and electricity outages, said Kleynhans on Tuesday. 

"On December 11, both water and electricity services collapsed. Within two days municipal officials and community members managed to restore the water supply, but after six days the greater part of Harrismith remains without electricity. This has affected cellphone and internet services, as well as the Telkom service.

"On Saturday, the administrator appointed a private contractor to restore power to the area. A few areas have been restored but large parts still have no electricity supply. A combination of years of criminal neglect of a very old network by the municipality, cable theft and alleged sabotage, led to the network being unable to withstand the constant interruptions by Eskom. 

"Municipal officials, with dubious competency, did not implement the load shedding in phases, but simply threw a switch - plunging the entire system into darkness by overloading the system in one fell swoop," said Kleynhans.

 She said the contractor had been working since Saturday to try to restore and stabilise the network, but each section that was restored lead to burn-outs and faults further down the line. 

SAPS are investigating cases of cable theft and alleged sabotage, which were revealed by the contractor, she said. 

"Meanwhile, some businesses have closed, including a factory that has closed permanently. Each closure leads to job losses and adds to the huge burden of unemployment and poverty in the area."

Furthermore, said Kleynhans, staff employed to maintain the electricity supply network had to make do with two unroadworthy and unlicensed vehicles, no digging equipment, no safety clothing, and no parts or tools. 

Businesses and factories had to buy cables, transformers and borrow equipment, "while highly paid managers sat in well-heated offices manipulating the budgets."

The municipality has been hauled to court several times by the Harrismith Business Forum, which succeeded in obtaining a court order prohibiting Eskom from cutting the electricity supply. 

However, until the National Treasury appointed the current team of administrators, Maluti-a-Phofung was "simply used as a laundromat to enrich cronies", said Kleynhans.

African News Agency (ANA)

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