Rustenburg - Rustenburg municipality in the North West has made news headlines largely for the wrong reasons in recent years, with failing services and associated violent and destructive protests by disenchanted communities.
Other issues have included municipal workers downing tools and refusing to use vehicles the municipality had leased, alleging corruption tied to the use of a rented vehicle fleet.
Now the municipality says it is trying to turn the situation around by rolling out the ReDirelaSechaba service delivery programme, loosely translated as "we are working for the people".
The programme aims to address and improve service delivery across four main focal points, namely roads, electricity, water and sanitation, and community development. The municipality purchased 100 vans, eight tipper trucks, two waste trucks, 15 TLB (diggers) and 36 yellow fleet vehicles, worth a total of R110 million as part of the programme.
Twenty-eight more yellow fleet units are expected before the end of the financial year, while the municipality has further plans to buy 10 more tipper and six garbage trucks.
Rustenburg Mayor Mpho Khunou said the water and sanitation unit has improved by 100 percent since the vehicles were handed over last year.
"Having already seen favourable results from the turnaround strategy that we rolled out in our 2018/19 financial year in terms of delivering much-needed services to the people of Rustenburg, we are excited to launch a programme that will not only allow the municipality to further deliver on its mandate to communities and the business community, but it will also change the lives of our people by creating jobs and fostering entrepreneurship," Khunou said.
"Through our turnaround strategy last year, we were able to reduce the number of service complaints related to water services from 4 000 to just 20.
"We increased the city’s electrical capacity to avoid power outages and straining of distribution lines. We saw an improvement of our green drop rating from the department of water and sanitation and our turnaround times in fixing our roads have lessened significantly.
"ReDirelaSechaba programme will elevate the quality of service to our people exponentially and propel us even closer to our goal of being a world-class city," he said.
The programme is expected to create 150 jobs and empower local businesses to form cooperatives which would benefit through the work opportunities arising from the implementation of the programme.
Municipal manager Nqobile Ngema said progress of the programme would be monitored and on Fridays, she and directors would go out of office to monitor the progress on the ground.
Khunou dismissed suggestions that the massive roll-out of the intensified service delivery programme was a ploy to entice voters ahead of the general election on May 8.
He said there was no way the municipality could have acquired the fleet just for the elections.
"The elections in May, they are national and provincial elections. Municipal elections will take place in the year 2021. It cannot be that because you have provincial and national elections local government must come to a standstill. You will not be able just because you are holding elections all of a sudden acquire the kind of fleet that we have acquired.
"It has absolutely nothing to do with the elections, remember local government elections will be in 2021, in any case, even if we were on the verge of local government elections in April, service delivery - residents want service delivery. There are residents in Tlhabane or Rustenburg Noord who have been complaining about potholes. Do we have to put fixing potholes on hold because of elections?" he asked.
He said the purchase of the multi-million rand fleet followed the approval of the budget on 12 July 2018.
The vehicles would be used to intensify service delivery in all 45 wards of the municipality.
The African National Congress (ANC) obtained 48, 24 percent of the vote in Rustenburg in the 2016 municipal election, a move observers said it was due largely to the failure to provide access of basic services to residents and allegations of widespread corruption in the municipality.
Despite fixing potholes, attending to overspilling sewer pipes and providing water and other basic services, a dark cloud of corruption still hangs over the municipality.
The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) conducted a search and seizure operation at the municipality this week in connection with alleged tender fraud worth approximately R85 million.
The municipality is also involved in a legal battle with a security company over a tender.
North West Premier Job Mokgoro - who was parachuted in by the ruling ANC in June last year following the resignation of Supra Mahumapelo amid a a spate of service delivery protests which brought the province to its knees - admitted in his recent State of the Province Address (Sopa) that the performance of municipalities and provision of basic services had been on a decline over the years.
"Our municipalities have also been regressing in terms of audit outcomes, their response to community needs, and execution of their legislative responsibilities," Mokgoro said.
"Local government remains the cornerstone of our ability to deliver basic services to our people – they are at the coalface of service delivery and their effectiveness and efficiency is of paramount importance to us.
"However, our municipalities have been found wanting on this score – simply put, they are in a dire state and about 19 of the 22 municipalities in this province were on the brink of near collapse, totally in a dysfunctional state."
* This article has been amended to remove an erroneous sentence stating that the ANC was in a coalition with the Freedom Front Plus.
African News Agency (ANA)