Massive backlog of services, but not enough money

THABAZIMBI – Huge challenges face the Thabazimbi Municipality with new townships mushrooming everywhere, main towns which are bursting at the seems, the degradation of existing infrastructures, not enough water and insufficient sewage systems: a “massive backlog of services and never sufficient budget to do everything” in the words of mayor Lucas Matlou.
This monumental responsibility of the Thabazimbi Local Municipality was once again realized at the IDP (Integrated Development Plan) meeting at the Trollope Hall which was held for Thabazimbi residents and farmers on February 3rd.
The law requires that IDP meetings are held between residents and local councilors to inform the public of municipal projects and expenditures. IDP meetings should be held twice annually, namely a mid-financial year report back, as well as a pre-financial year meeting during which major financial projects are discussed for the next financial year. This meeting also gives an indication of what to expect from the municipal budget.
Main issues which were discussed at the IDP meeting include property rates, the passing of by-laws, the water quality, sewage infrastructure, health services and roads.
Mayor Lucas Matlou said that the two major issues which must be addressed are that of the municipal rates and the town’s water quality. He said that everybody must pay the old property rates (as appeared on municipal accounts during the first part of 2008) and not the amount, which reflects the rate which was announced in July 2008, which currently appears on accounts. All services must be paid for as stipulated on the account.
This situation will continue until certain by-laws are passed, the evaluation role finalized and a tax policy approved. He said that the rate of R0,0085/R, announced in June 2008, is too high and will have to change, and the rate which is currently considered is R0,00175/R.
Regarding the water quality Matlou said that the water reticulation infrastructure has not been maintained properly and that this has been a trend in most municipalities since 1994. Priority was given to supplying services to previously disadvantaged areas, while maintenance in existing areas was neglected.
Currently the town is running at full capacity supplying water to Thabazimbi town and the development of any new residential areas (such as Extention 36) will create a lack of water in areas higher up.
Matlou explained the urgency which was required in developing sewage Waste Water Treatment plants in both Northam and Thabazimbi which has also reached its limits and which will have reached capacity by 2010.
A loan of R278m was procured from the Development Bank of Southern Africa and a percentage of services paid by current residents will go towards redeeming this loan.
Matlou said that the condition of certain farm roads was a major concern and that regular meetings with the Department of Roads and Transport were held in this regard. The Northam-Dwaalboom road was one of the biggest priorities and will hopefully be tarred soon.
A big concern was also the lack of services in Smashblock and other informal settlements where there was hardly any water or sanitation facilities. Even in Regorogile there are houses without toilets. 
On a question what contribution the mines are making in establishing and enlarging infrastructure, Matlou said that Anglo Plats has given generous support to the Thabazimbi Local Municipality for a number of projects and that grants are expected from the newly established Kumba Supertrust worth R211m. 
Matlou said that a “massive backlog of services” exist and that there are never sufficient funds to do what they are supposed to. He also hinted at a backlog which accumulated during the previous council’s term.
Other issues which were also touched on were the valuation role, the necessity for farmers to pay taxes, street lights burning throughout the day, the metering system which was not implemented in Regorogile and the necessity for building a civic centre.
In a mid year report issued at the IDP meeting all major financial projects are set out. Only one traffic light will be installed at the Lephalale turn-off and the rest of the budget for this was redirected to finish a sewage project in Regorogile. The Municipality has managed to do this project internally and the cost has been cut from R5m to R1,1m. Other projects in Regorogile include the construction of a sports centre, paving of internal streets and the upgrading of the cemetery.
In March the municipality will advertise for service providers to conduct a feasibility study for the development of a cultural village.
The document stated that “despite all the challenges confronting us, we are able to deliver basic services to our people. We are also admitting that we have capacity challenges … three vacancies of Section 57 Managers which must be filled by the end of March 2009 … We are also having a challenge of implementing the Property Rates Act”.
Thabazimbi Local Municipality has won the Vuna Awards provincially and nationally on Local Economic Development. This award recognizes the municpality’s efforts to provide employment to locals.