Aggrieved community members in the North West town of Ventersdorp are demanding the immediate reversal of the 2016 amalgamation with Potchefstroom to form the JB Marks Local Municipality.
The group, which calls itself Anti-Amalgamation Steering Committee, said the merger had failed to fulfil its mandate in a memorandum sent to the MEC for Local Government Human Settlements and Traditional Affairs, Lena Miga.
Miga was given until next Wednesday to respond to the community’s demands.
Ventersdorp Local Municipality merged with the Tlokwe Local Municipality to form the JB Marks Local Municipality in 2016.
In political circles, it was believed that the ANC merged the two municipalities to avoid losing the Tlokwe municipality to the opposition. In 2016, the ANC won the JB Marks Local Municipality by one seat and it is in a coalition arrangement with the Patriotic Alliance after last year’s polls.
The committee said last Wednesday that until last year, the municipality was consulted three times about placing it under administration through administration. The Ventersdorp community was yet to receive feedback on the outcome of that intervention, according to community representative Bomba Matinyane.
He said there was a total collapse of services in Ventersdorp, which was exacerbated by corruption, since the merger. “Investigations should be instituted with immediate effect and those found to be involved should be prosecuted,” Matinyane said.
Other pending matters included the implementation of the recommendations of the Special Investigative Unit reports, the conclusion on the prosecution of the Choppies funerals and burial scandals of the indigent beneficiaries and the reinvestigation of the Durban July expenditure.
He said the community also demanded investigations into the contracts of waste removal trucks lease in 2018, the disparity in allocation of new fleet for Ventersdorp and Potchefstroom and the mass light repairs contracts “that were not completed but the contractor was fully paid during the July 2019 appointment”.
The councillors were allegedly getting directly involved in the appointment and procurement processes and interfered in the council’s recruitment policy, he said, adding that the Ventersdorp community had become hopeless after five years of poor service delivery.
Matinyane said the municipality intended to cut off electricity to the indebted households, although it had not update the billing system. “Access to electricity and housing is a [human] right and the municipality is a human rights violator in this regard.”
On the local economic front, he said small businesses in Ventersdorp were “subjected to grass-cutting and catering depending on who is recommended by councillors and some influential officials”.
Another local activist confirmed there were unfulfilled promises from the merger. However, the person who asked to remain anonymous, said Matinyane was in the council that approved the amalgamation and contributed to the collapse of some local development programmes.
“He was the leader of service delivery protests that led to the amalgamation. By then, Ventersdorp was about to be liquidated and it was saved by Potchefstroom.”
The activist said Ventersdorp alone was not financially sustainable, poverty was rife with a culture of non-payment for services. “This guy was the determinant of who gets which project. You can see for yourself that most demands are about procurement. Even if we split from Potchefstroom, Ventersdorp will not be able to stand on its own.”