For more than a decade, Govan Mbeki Municipality’s administration was in tatters.
With the alleged assassination of whistle-blowers and the disappearance without trace of the municipality’s chief financial officer, Joshua Ntshuhle, in 2003, the Secunda-based municipality was riddled with corruption and sliding into anarchy.
Today, it is a different story.
The ANC-led municipality, which includes Secunda, Leandra and Bethal, is ranked 34th among the country’s 234 municipalities – eight places higher than the City of Joburg.
Municipal manager Mmela Mahlangu says after he was appointed in 2012, he and his team “had to look critically at our governance, revise our strategy and rebrand”. He established regional offices in Bethal, Secunda and Embalenhle township in 2013 to deliver better services to the population of 294 538 people and 83 874 households.
Then, he strengthened the audit and risk committees, and the finance unit. For the past three years, the municipality has received unqualified reports from the Auditor-General.
“Let me also brag a bit,” Mahlangu says. “There are only two municipalities that don’t incur unauthorised expenditure … That is us and Pixley ka Seme. We’re able to spend our municipal infrastructure grants and therefore get more funding from National Treasury for service delivery.”
Contributions from big business like Sasol and mining companies were being directed towards fixing sanitation. Contractors did such a shoddy job that sewage spills into the streets, particularly in Embalenhle, and pump stations are broken.
Though the municipality owes Eskom R190 million, Mahlangu says this is because many residents either steal power or refuse to pay their bills. Now they are spending R15 million on smart meters that cannot be tampered with.
Govan Mbeki’s residents say that although they think the municipality is doing well, it could improve – especially on electricity supply. Master Ndlovu (56) complained about occasional power outages, “however, everything else seems to be fine”.
Franzel Fourie (31) from Secunda says she has no problem with the municipality, but problems with unhelpful police.
Matthews Zwane (25) from Embalenhle also complains about policing and power cuts.
“The power goes off at the wrong time, in the evening and in winter when we have to cook. We have to use paraffin stoves,” he says.