Spread facts not fears on Msunduzi

2010-08-13 00:00

WALTER Sisulu taught us that “it is a law of life that problems will arise when conditions are there for their solution”.

The recent challenges affecting the Msunduzi Municipality, in particular the need for a “financial bail-out”, have been used by some opportunists as a launching pad from which to hurl insults and instigate a diatribe against those they dislike. At the outset, I want to state that the municipality of Msunduzi faces serious challenges which could have been avoided. But that is a matter best confined to the record and used to avoid future pitfalls as we embark on a journey to a new city.

Not so long ago, the KwaZulu-Natal provincial legislature convened an important initiative called the Friends of the City of uMsunduzi. This initiative was introduced with a view to mobilising all stakeholders to work towards a time of renewal for the city. The government understood that it is in times of difficulty that the best of people’s ingenuity can be seen. However, recently we have observed a trend in which a lot of fears, as opposed to facts, are being spread about the municipality. Surprisingly, among the fear-mongers are those who solemnly committed themselves as friends of the city. This goes against their commitment to contribute ideas and resources towards the turning around of this municipality for the better.

It is important that we address some of the misrepresentation about the progress that is being made in improving the functioning of our municipality. The reality is that the intervention has brought stability and focus. Systems have been introduced to enhance good corporate governance and more are being implemented. Although not yet fully recovered, the financial position of Msunduzi is better than before. We have noted improvements in the revenue collections by the municipality, with an average amount of R7 million being collected on a daily basis. Efforts are ongoing to discipline all those who contributed to the collapse of good governance within the municipality.

The latest strain on the municipal coffers has been exacerbated by the two-par tariff system that the energy regulator Nersa grants to Eskom. What does this mean? Msunduzi Municipality adjusts its electricity tariffs on an annual basis. This means that they can only effect an increase to the ratepayers once a year. Nersa grants Eskom latitude to levy the municipalities two sets of tariffs in one year, including the demand period (winter). For example, the monthly tariff for electricity as at May 2010 was R40 million, but during the winter season Eskom levied the municipality an amount of R107 million as at August 2010. A disproportionate increase indeed, with huge implications on any municipal budget. The context in which this has to be understood is that the municipalities pay Eskom in advance by the 15th of every month. Through fiscal and financial rectitude, the municipality has successfully sailed through the Eskom storm. This is a clear demonstration that Msunduzi is turning the corner.

The message to the people of Msunduzi is that beyond the negative headlines, Msunduzi is being positioned as one of the engines of economic growth in our province and is being returned to its glory days. This is a task that requires a collective effort. Everyone must play their part. It has been disheartening to learn that some businesses in Msunduzi are major culprits in defaulting on their rates and services payment. The Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business needs to deal with this immoral behaviour. Municipalities around the world survive because of the support of their ratepayers.

The prophets of doom may celebrate these challenges in Msunduzi and may want to use them to revive their own flagging fortunes. The Friends of uMsunduzi must not succumb to their false prophesies.

As Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs MEC Nomusa Dube said at the Friends of uMsunduzi breakfast: “Challenges are part of the cycle of history, they are the test of humankind’s ingenuity”.

Let us not forget that not so long ago, uMsunduzi was a pariah city reserved only for a few. It is now a city that is a melting pot of citizens. This is among the challenges that the city has overcome. It is at times like this that Henry Ford inspires us when he says: “Coming together is a beginning, keeping together is progress; working together is success.”

• Lennox Mabaso is head of the Communications Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs. He writes in his personal capacity.

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