SPECIAL REPORT: Administrator’s turnaround strategy

2019-07-26 15:28

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Give me one year to handle the immediate crisis, but expect it to take around three years or even longer to sort things out properly.

Also read: Factions hurt council

That’s the word from City Administrator Sibusiso Sithole in his report titled “A municipality in an all-round turmoil: a report towards a sustainable recovery plan for Msunduzi” that was leaked to The Witness.

Read: Clean up central areas

In a damning report that pulls no punches, Sithole sets out a detailed road map to get the City back on its feet.

He said he’s undertaken a “high-level diagnosis of the state of the municipality” looking at governance; service delivery; economic development; financial health; and institutional challenges.

“In all these areas,” he said, the municipality exhibits “uncomfortable signals of distress”.

“The financial, service delivery and economic development distresses are caused mainly by instability at governance and institutional levels.

“Regression in audit outcomes especially in the last two years provides ample evidence of the turmoil that is visiting the municipality.

“Non-collection of revenue, which is the life-blood of the organisation, has placed the municipality on a precarious road to self-­annihilation with a debt book rising to R3,4 billion.”

This, he said, is unsustainable and there is a risk that the municipality will at some point in the foreseeable future be unable to pay its creditors.

He has set in place measurements, targets and projects to be initiated with a project plan with responsibilities assigned to different individuals at Msunduzi.

Also, critically, the risks impacting on the success of the turnaround plan are identified with measures to mitigate them.

“At a high level, Msunduzi Municipality has been plagued by a plethora of perennial challenges in terms of service delivery,” he said.


Addressing public safety in the capital, Sithole slams the public safety function, saying it has “also deteriorated greatly” due to a high vacancy rate and because the staff complement “has not grown commensurate with increases in the population and the rise in social ills afflicting the city”.

He also bemoans the poor state of vehicles used by enforcement teams.

“As a consequence, traffic congestion, lack of by-law enforcement and general state of lawlessness in the city is appalling to say the least.

“There is thus a necessity to review their entire public safety function and ensure implementation of integrated law enforcement regime that is visible, disciplined and well capacitated.

“Such resources must be properly deployed in strategic hot spots taking into account land invasion challenges, violent public protests, vandalism of infrastructure and other considerations.

“In addition, the city must explore the deployment of technology as a tool to aid law enforcement such as parking meters, CCTV cameras, and other surveillances, to support policing throughout the city.”


A critical part of Sithole’s turnaround strategy is the provision of electricity within Msunduzi Municipality.

He calls the supply of electricity in Msunduzi “erratic” and said the biggest risk that Msunduzi Municipality faces is the “failure of its ageing infrastructure which may lead to prolonged blackouts throughout the city”. 

He said there would be a “special impact on industry and commerce which make up 70%” of the City’s revenue, as well as on households and government departments operating in the capital city. He warns that the combined economic and social impacts of these anticipated blackouts are “too ghastly to contemplate”.

“This risk is compounded by the rapid increase in the incidents of vandalism by drug addicts that are roaming throughout the city especially at night.

“Vandalised substations require about R20,4 million urgently as they have become an occupational health and safety hazard putting the lives of employees at stake who are supposed to salvage whatever remains in these substations.

“It has also been confirmed that the electricity infrastructure of the municipality is not ring-fenced, and there was a lack of business planning and long-­ term budgeting for the electricity department … It has been found that while there were efforts to upgrade and develop the electricity network, and an amount of about R250 million has been borrowed from DBSA towards this objective, most of the projects remain incomplete and where mission critical equipment has been purchased to increase network capacity, these are wasted as installation funds have not been made available.

“There is thus an urgent need to focus on completing these projects to increase the certainty and assurance of future electricity.

“To this end, an estimated amount of R238 million is needed to complete mission critical infrastructure primary and secondary substations, including vandalised substations.”


The administrator said the municipality requires capital for revenue protection and that a targeted approach must be adopted to install smart meters for all commercial and industrial customers.

“This must be done concurrently with other bulk power consumers such as blocks of flats, which cannot be disconnected ... For the rest of household consumers, Msunduzi Electricity must move towards prepaid meter systems that can be remotely monitored to detect vandalism and tampering.

“This must be accompanied by stiffer penalties directed at people who are stealing electricity and tampering with meters.

“Msunduzi Electricity must remodel its tariff structure for sustainable investment in the network through cost reflective tariffs ... Of importance is the need to modernise its control rooms and customer services infrastructure.”

Poor electricity compliance

Sithole revealed that an audit by Nersa in 2014/2015 scored Msunduzi at 71% in terms compliance with its electricity licence conditions.

“It is highly likely that the situation has further deteriorated like the rest of other services within the municipality. This is a major risk as it has a direct impact on the future operations of the Msunduzi electricity business unit.

“Areas of concern related to the need to pay immediate management attention to the staff complement to alleviate the intense workload faced by the current employees. Posts that were originally designated for engineers and managers are now filled by technicians. This situation has become more desperate as more critical vacancies were identified at the end of April 2019.

“There is also an urgent need to electrify informal settlements, especially those which cause a number of network failures that affect industries and households …”

Vandalised sub-stations

Vandalised sub-stations

  • Sutherland/Edendale
  • Edendale/Loco 
  • Christie/Ritchie 
  • Ohrtmann/Epol Main
  • Pine/Mayors Walk 
  • Echo/Bulwer 
  • Church/Lambert 
  • Prince George/Garfield 
  •  Bekewel/Paul
  • Alex/French
  • Chatterton/Hyslop 
  • Ohrtmann Road/Epic Oil 
  • Lynroy/Oleander 
  • Pietermaritz/West Street 
  •  Bale/Institute
  • Sweetwaters/Hayfields
  • Chapel/McNamees


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