WATCH | On the road: Emfuleni and Midvaal - a tale of two realities for residents

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  • The Emfuleni and Midvaal municipalities are not far from each other, but service delivery in the areas could not be more different.
  • Residents of Midvaal enjoy clean streets and better service delivery, but Emfuleni residents have to contend with sewerage flowing in the streets.
  • A resident who's an ANC member says he will encourage residents of Emfuleni not to vote for the party in the elections due to its "failures".

Like "chalk and cheese" has been the term used to describe the difference between two neighbouring municipalities: the ANC-run Emfuleni and the DA-led Midvaal.

The Midvaal Local Municipality, known as the shining star of Gauteng's municipalities, has received clean audits for years. It's ranked as the fifth best-run municipality in the country.

Emfuleni, on the other hand, has been red flagged for irregular expenditure of R1.1 billion for 2018-'19, Cogta told Parliament in November 2020. It also owes more than R6 billion collectively to Eskom and Rand Water.

READ | Unhelpful, unskilled and uncaring: Here's how you feel about your ward councillors - Media24 poll

As the country heads towards the municipal elections on 1 November, the stark differences between these two municipalities pose different questions to residents.

Emfuleni residents up in arms over service delivery

In Emfuleni, News24 spoke to residents of Bophelong, who decried years of neglect and concern at the direction in which the municipality was headed.

Paul Ndlovu, a resident of Bophelong since 2000, said while doing his morning stretch in his yard he is greeted by a strong smell and the sound of running sewerage.

The sewerage leak, which is loud and flows a few metres from his gate, is hard to get used to. Ndlovu said the water had been flowing for a year. Three different contractors had been brought into the neighbourhood to assess the leak, but none had fixed it.

His biggest concern is his disabled teenage daughter, who needs bed rest. Her room does not get ventilation because Ndlovu does not open the windows, fearing the smell of sewerage will consume his home.

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"The smell changes with time. Early in the morning and in the afternoon it is so bad you cannot even eat anything. You cannot even open the window. I have a child who is disabled, and she is always in the room. She needs ventilation inside, and I cannot even open the window for her.

politics,elections 2021,service delivery
A sewerage leak, in Bophelong suburb in Emfuleni municipality. The water has been gushing non-stop for the last year, with residents having to endure the distinct overpowering smell of sewerage.
Supplied Nomvelo Chalumbira

"The service delivery was right, but five years back things started to change. The rubbish collection became irregular and electricity interruptions became worse," Ndlovu said, pointing to the flowing sewerage.

Because of irregular refuse collection, residents of Bophelong have opted to dump their refuse in open fields. Ndlovu said once he has voted in the municipal elections, he hopes to see an improvement in services.

"I would like to see service delivery. It is not only the sewerage but there is also rubbish everywhere. If you warn people not to dump there, they will tell you if they put their refuse in dustbins, no one comes and collects it," he told News24.

politics,elections 2021,service delivery
Residents of Bophelong have resorted to dumping their garbage in open fields as refuse collection in the area is so irregular.
Supplied Nomvelo Chalumbira

Ntebaleng Ranooe, another resident of Bophelong, also bemoaned the sewerage concerns. She said residents have had to adjust their lives in line with irregular power cuts. She will vote on 1 November, despite having little faith that the situation would change for the better.

In Vereeniging in the Emfuleni municipality, Bishop Sekhae Radebe, who has lived in the area for years, runs a ministry. He said the situation has deteriorated over the years.

A card-carrying member of the ANC since he was a teenager, Radebe said he had taken the "hard decision" of not voting for the ANC.

The preacher said he planned to use his platform to discourage his congregants from voting for the ANC. He wanted them to back anyone but the party, but said he "remained fond" of its history.

Radebe said the Emfuleni municipality should have been dissolved long ago, but efforts to place it under administration had failed twice.

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"The people in charge right now should retire because they have failed. If you failed for 27 years and you come to me and say you want my vote, what do you want me to do? I have been a card-carrying member of the ANC for many years and I want them gone so better people can take over.

"Any person that is good, we will take them and allow them to do the job. It does not matter whether they are EFF or any other political party. We want the skills to do the job. Let us service the people," Radebe said.

He, like many residents, complained about water leaks, irregular refuse collection and unexpected power cuts. Potholes were another concern.

"Nothing is good about Emfuleni. The good that the Emfuleni government knows is to cut the electricity, not to fix potholes, and they do not respond, they are not in their offices, and they never answer their phones.

"Some of us have even stopped paying the municipality because what are we paying for?" Radebe said.

Residents take charge

Roshnee, a suburb in the Emfuleni municipality, has seen residents taking charge of their own service delivery for the past 10 years. Residents do crowdfunding, and the money collected is used to fix any municipal problems.

New Horizon Movement

For Bishop Vincent Jones, who is running as a ward candidate in Emfuleni for the first time, the decision to run was easy. He said there were too many concerns to count.He said his biggest concern about the elections was that the leaders of national political parties had hijacked the elections, with a focus on issues they will be unable to implement at local government level.

READ | Municipal Elections 2021: KZN’s deadly politics likely to get bloodier

"We have taken local government away from the people. All the big politicians are pushing a national agenda. How do you campaign in local government and talk about building RDP houses in Sandton? It does not make sense.

"They are taking local government away from the people. Who is going to account once they are gone? The people on the ground are not going to account because the big politicians made the promises," Jones said.

Midvaal, a tale of two realities

A difference is visible in Meyerton in the Midvaal municipality. The streets are clean and there are no signs of garbage in the streets.

Business owners in the town all had the same story to tell about the area - things were better in Midvaal than in Emfuleni.News24 spoke to a business owner who declined to be named. The man said Midvaal and Emfuleni were like "chalk and cheese". He resides in Roshnee, in Emfuleni, where residents have taken over service delivery.

Everything in Midvaal was run well, he said.

"Everything is in order, and the town is well-maintained, and is clean. In terms of running a business, it's very simple. If we have issues with basic services, it's very minimal. If there is a problem, it gets attended to like yesterday.

politics,elections 2021,service delivery
Meyerton in Midvaal paints a rosy picture of a well-run municipality. The streets are clean and there are no signs of garbage littered on the roads or potholes in the streets.
Supplied Nomvelo Chalumbira

"The difference between Emfuleni and Midvaal is like chalk and cheese. You cannot even compare. I live in Roshnee and whatever is done in Roshnee is done by the community. Nothing gets done by the municipality," the businessman told News24.

A 71-year-old hardware store owner, who declined to be named but introduced himself as a loyal ANC supporter, said he had mixed feelings about Midvaal. He said while service delivery was better, the cost of living was just too high.

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"My experience [in Midvaal] is that there is no crime here, the streets are clean. I live in Meyerton but I am more of a supporter of the ANC. The rental is too high, and the lights and water go up. The area is run better than when the ANC was running the area, but the cost of living is high," he said.

While some people commended Midvaal, a family living in the farming community said the message of a well-run municipality rang hollow.

Moyo Mkhwanazi and his family reside in an old, dilapidated farmhouse on the side of a road in Vlakfontein in Meyerton.

A lack of basic food, water and electricity was a daily reality for the family of 12. Mkhwanazi is a ward candidate running in an election for the first time. He said his family's living conditions drove his ambition.

politics,elections 2021,service delivery
Moyo Mkhwanazi and his family of 12 live in an old, dilapidated farmhouse on the side of a road in Vlakfontein in Meyerton. Mkhwanazi is a first time ward candidate running in the upcoming municipal election.
Supplied Nomvelo Chalumbira
politics,elections 2021,service delivery
The old, dilapidated farmhouse on the side of a road in Vlakfontein in Meyerton where the Mkhwanazi family live.
Supplied Nomvelo Chalumbira

His father had started as a farmworker in the 1960s. Mkhwanazi said the family was moved to the old farmhouse by a farmer when his father died in 2005. A legal battle was under way over the labour agreement between the family and the farmer.

In the meantime, Mkhwanazi and his family remain without a permanent home.

He said the good story of Midvaal was not a reality if farming families remained without services, clinics and houses.

"You cannot say you are the ward councillor, yet basic services are neglected. Let us at least have a mobile clinic. The nearest clinic is Vereeniging, 20 kilometres away," he told News24.

politics,elections 2021,service delivery
The toilet structure the Mkhwanazi family have to use.
Supplied Nomvelo Chalumbira

"We believe there are many models that can be implemented to enhance the lives of people in rural communities. The first is the idea of an agri-village where people from various farms can be settled in various locations and have houses built for them, and have basic services provided for them while they keep their jobs on the farm. They will always know they have a home if their work on the farms ends," Mkhwanazi said.

Mkhwanazi has found it difficult to campaign as he is unemployed and lacks resources. However, he believes that his participation in the elections as a candidate will help bring attention to the plight of rural communities.

Stay updated with News24's latest coverage, opinion and analysis of Elections 2021. Check out results from the previous municipal elections.

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