The Rustenburg blame game: Residents complain of poor service delivery, mayor blames community

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The Rustenburg Rapid Transport system, which cost more than R3 billion, is still not operational. Photo: Tebogo Letsie
The Rustenburg Rapid Transport system, which cost more than R3 billion, is still not operational. Photo: Tebogo Letsie


The R3.3 billion Rustenburg Rapid Transport (RRT) system, which is yet to become operational more than 10 years after its inception, has become a headache for the Rustenburg Local Municipality, which is already struggling with service delivery challenges that include aging water and sanitation infrastructure.

After a day of light rain, vehicles slowly drive around or over water-logged potholes which dot several roads across Tlhabane township in the North West.

There are pockets of illegal dumping sites in the area, with the biggest one having grown in size after being used as a dumping site for rubble, sand, stones and various other building materials from the construction site of the now complete Tlhabane Square, a new mall in the area.

Some streets of Tlhabane have potholes that pose a driving hazard, especially when it rains. Photo: Tebogo Letsie

There were sporadic sites where the local municipality was dealing with burst pipes and sewer spillage, some of which has been flowing into people’s properties and causing their domestic plumbing pipes to block and spill.

Many said that their water and sanitation infrastructure-related problems get fixed only for the solution to last for a little while before the problems re-emerge later.

The outgoing Rustenburg Mayor Mpho Khunou acknowledged several service delivery challenges facing the municipality, but said they did their part as the local government. He blamed the communities for lack of cooperation and for not taking care of the public infrastructure.

City Press reported a little more than a year ago that the RRT project was going at a snail’s pace, with many bus stations still under construction while others had been somehow abandoned incomplete and left covered in shrubs and grass.

READ: R3.3bn and 14 years later, Rustenburg’s bus system remains incomplete

Nothing much had changed during a visit to the area last week, with many stations still cordoned off as construction sites while others, especially in town, have taken shape and even have flowers planted outside, but not looking ready to welcome commuters.

The bus system was initially expected to be operational in early 2020, but when that did not happen the municipality said last year that the plan was to implement phase 1A – the Tlhabane corridor – as a pilot from October 2020, which would be followed by a full launch in January 2021 and other phases until January 2022.

Over a year later and the first phase is yet to be implemented. However, Khunou said there were valid reasons for the delay, adding that they had procured at least 12 buses.

A Tlhabane resident alleges that municipal employees came and dug a hole in her yard, and have not come back to complete the job. Photo: Tebogo Letsie

He said they were “more than ready to implement the first phase”. The incompleteness of bus stations does not mean that the municipality cannot implement the service, Khunou said.

“Major and trunk routes are completed, and so are some bus stations. Driver training is done and an interim depot is sorted out, but there is one huge stumbling block around the issue of compensation.”

“There are taxi operators on routes we intend to operate on, and they must be compensated before we can implement the first phase from Tlhabane to the CBD,” he said.

“There are nine taxi associations on that route, but we can’t reach a settlement on compensation. There are about 1 000 taxi operators, [whom] we offered R750 000 each to buy them out of that route, but they wanted R1.9 million per operator’s certificate. Our final offer is R1 million and now they want R1.6 million.”

READ: Tlhabane’s determined independent councillor candidate

“There is now a revised offer of R1.2 million plus R100 000 for those registered for tax. If they come back tomorrow and accept the offer, it will just be a matter of taking care of a few logistics and it will be all systems go for the first phase of the RRT.”

On the illegal dumping sites, Khunou said there were plans to rehabilitate the site that contains rubble from the new mall. He was adamant that the aim was to rehabilitate the area, but they were disrupted by local businesspeople who wanted to be part of the project.

“Illegal dumping is generally a big problem that desperately needs the community’s cooperation to end. We can clean today and put up big refuse bins on site but our people will dump all sorts of refuse right next to them the same evening,” he said.

An illegal dumping site near a pre-school in Tlhabane. Photo: Tebogo Letsie

Tlhabane resident Margaret Lebese said last Friday that she had been struggling with a pipe that has burst repeatedly over the years.

“They came, broke my wall and dug this big trench and I haven’t had water for days ... I’m surely spending my weekend like this. I was forced to break some of the rooms in which my son lived because of the forever bursting pipes,” Lebese said.

Khunou said his municipality had spent R100 million on replacing aged water and sanitation infrastructure in the past three years. He said pipe blockages were at times caused by the things residents throw into the sewer system, such as “human remains, especially of foetuses”.

He said his municipality had invested billions in infrastructure over the years, including R1 billion on roads and R120 million on electricity.


Poloko Tau 


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69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park
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