The Hon. Speaker, the Hon. Leader of the Official Opposition, the Hon. MECs and Hon. Members. It is my privilege to represent the Inkatha Freedom Party in this debate.
From the onset, I wish to commiserate with the residents of eThekwini and the South Coast for the inconvenience they experienced due to the hail and storms that struck in their neighbourhoods on Tuesday this week, which the locals call a tornado, but is still to be confirmed by the relevant agencies as to what it was that occurred on this day.
It shows the difficult times in which we live, where climate change is impacting the lives of the residents of our Province and our country. What happened in our Province on Tuesday happened while the residents of eThekwini are still reeling under the effects of the April 2022 rains, which destroyed infrastructure and led to the loss of many lives.
These incidents demonstrate the need for all structures of government, particularly the local sphere of government, to be ready to respond to the climate change challenges that they are going to experience from time to time. It is so sad that four lives are reported to have been lost and some people still unaccounted for, adding to the number of the people unaccounted for in the April 2022 disaster. It left a lot of destruction, which is going to take a long time to fix.
The challenge in our country and our province is to build climate resilient infrastructure, which can withstand all kinds of storms and weather. It is also important to build and perfect early warning systems in order to ensure communities prepare well in advance should inclement weather present itself. Above all, our spatial planning should be climate sensitive; this is a very important factor to be considered by all Municipalities within our country. Lastly on this point the IFP wishes to emphasise that COGTA should ensure that all Municipalities within our Province have functional Disaster Management Centres, which are fully equipped and able to mitigate all kinds of disasters that may occur.
Core services that local government provides – clean drinking water, sanitation, electricity, shelter, waste removal and roads – are basic human rights, essential components of the right to dignity, enshrined in our Constitution and Bill of Rights.
In 2019, the KZN provincial government launched a yellow plant equipment programme worth millions of rands with much fanfare and later it was discovered that some of the machines handed over to the municipalities were second-hand machines, not new machines. This was raised by Amajuba District Municipality, when it stated that some of the machines had technical faults and the municipality had to use its own funds to repair the broken machines. The IFP wishes to know from the Department whether the Department has reimbursed Amajuba District Municipality for the money they spent on repairing these machines.
It was noted as a matter of concern that an Ibamba Bukhosi in Ugu District hijacked the equipment meant to be used by the Municipality for his own use. The IFP wishes to get feedback from the Department on how this matter has been resolved, since the COGTA Portfolio Committee emphasised – when it visited this District – that this matter, if not resolved, should be reported to the police.
We are aware that during the 2022/23 financial year R49.334 million was approved in respect of the equipment for Municipalities under the Operation Khawuleza intervention. It is quite disturbing that in spite of this, the people of our Province still lack basic services, which if the funds were used for the purpose they were meant for, could have provided relief from the hardships they are experiencing at the moment.
It is a matter of concern that the Department of COGTA did not provide some municipalities with enough yellow plant equipment, as has been the case with Harry Gwala District. According to the District, it was promised four TLBs but only two were received. Two excavators and low back rollers were also not provided. Again, the IFP would like to know from the Department what happened to the other machines.
The programme of installing boreholes by COGTA in Municipalities is commendable but it is faced with challenges. Some Municipalities, such as uMkhanyakude District Municipality, were supplied with 24 generators to be used on sites where there is no electricity access. This resulted in these generators not being distributed to borehole sites. The question remains: how much was spent on these generators? How were they procured? Are they still stored at the uMkhanyakude District Offices? This is tantamount to wasteful expenditure. There is also a challenge that due to financial constraints, some municipalities cannot afford to buy diesel for the generators.
The IFP noted during the visit by the Portfolio Committee at uMkhanyakude District that there were – and still are – water pipes that have been lying unused since 2012, which are estimated to have a value of R126 million, which were purportedly procured by uMkhanyakude District Municipality. This is a classic case of fruitless, wasteful and irregular expenditure by the District Municipality and to date, nobody has been held accountable for this. The Hon. MEC should commission an investigation on this matter and give feedback to this House on the outcome of that investigation.
During SOPA, the Hon. Premier, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, announced that KwaZulu-Natal will, in 2023/2024, provide electricity connections to 25 000 households through the INEP Grant from the DMRE. The project has been allocated R784 million, which will bring the electrification connection rate in KwaZulu-Natal to 93.89%. This project must be expedited so that communities that have been provided with boreholes but cannot access them due to lack of electricity can have water. We call for a thorough investigation into the KwaJobe borehole, which could not be located during the oversight visit.
The IFP will pursue this matter with the Department to seek answers on why this borehole could not be located. How much was spent on it? Which drilling company was awarded a tender to build this borehole, which is supposed to be servicing the people of KwaJobe.
In addition, we will also seek clarity about the construction costs of Manyampisi Borehole in uMkhanyakude District, which amounted to R720 000, which is almost double the cost of other projects. We suspect that corruption is involved in this matter.
Further, we suggest there must be strong monitoring of the hiring of water tankers by Municipalities, as some water tanker drivers are alleged to be selling water to the people and some politicians have turned this programme into a cash cow. The IFP would actually like the water tanker programme to be done away with, but it is difficult to say so when so many residents in rural parts of our Province can only get water through water tankers.
It is indeed a sad indictment that at present, KZN municipalities are reported to be spending 53.75% of their MIG allocation, 40.4% WSIG and 30.6% RBIG. Further, it is worth noting that Coca Cola Beverages have donated four boreholes to be built in Alfred Duma and Inkosi Langalibalele Municipalities. In addition, the Newcastle Municipality has submitted a R938 million Business Plan to the Department of Water and Sanitation, applying for funds under the Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant and it is envisaged that the Business Plan will get approval before the end of September 2023. Further, the Zululand District Municipality has allocated R1.5 billion budget for the 2023/2024 financial year to resolve its water backlog, as it will install boreholes with windmills.
It is of great concern that some Municipalities struggle to address key infrastructure challenges.
Municipalities are not able to adequately address and adapt to the growth of high-density developments. Another key challenge is the lack of skills within Municipalities. Many do not have suitably qualified or trained people in key positions to tackle challenges, which is exacerbated by poor planning and budget allocation. A concerted effort is required to attract skills and apply them, which will effectively put Municipalities on a stronger technical footing.
UGu District Municipality reported that its budget for infrastructure maintenance is 3% and this was the norm in most Municipalities, which is below the recommended 8% budget that Municipalities are expected to put aside for infrastructure maintenance. The IFP believes that municipalities can benefit greatly from having an up-to-date inventory of their infrastructural assets to ensure effective asset management; this would allow for more systematic planning and budgeting for the maintenance and upgrading of assets wherever necessary.
It is important that COGTA ensures that all Municipalities within our Province set aside 8% in their budgets for infrastructure repair and maintenance.
Further, the non-payment of services such as water by government departments, businesses and households is a major concern, as is an inaccurate billing system. Residents and ratepayers of the embattled uMsunduzi Municipality have pleaded with the administration to reconsider its new double billing system, which they say is causing them financial hardships.
Illegal connections of water are a cause for concern. There are many cases of people illegally tapping into a water main in order to obtain water without paying for it. The cost of the water they use is then borne by others who do pay for the water produced by the municipality. We urge COGTA to ensure that Municipalities take a firm stance towards dealing with illegal water connections.
The IFP is concerned about infrastructure vandalism. Projects such as Malangeni Low-cost Housing Waterborne Sanitation and Pump Station 3 and Pennington Waterborne Sanitation – Umdoni Municipality were not spared. Municipalities must provide security to protect their water infrastructure. There is empirical evidence that those involved in this malpractice, sell the materials as scrap metal to fulfil their business requirements, which cripples our National Development Agenda. The IFP calls upon the general public to maintain constant vigilance and safeguard our national treasures, such as the water infrastructures and those responsible must be arrested. We support the call that Municipalities must increase security measures to guard water infrastructure.
Lastly, corrupt contractors who are awarded tenders and prioritise profit at the expense of poor communities must be arrested.
I thank you!