Mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla has conceded that Msunduzi’s billing system continues to be a constant thorn in ratepayers’ flesh.
He was speaking during a clean-up campaign in the Pietermaritzburg CBD on Thursday where he unveiled a ten-point plan of what the city’s leadership wishes to achieve in their first 100 days in office.
The plan includes dealing with the persistent billing issues.
“Indeed, there [have] been numerous discrepancies in the manner that billing data and information has been collected, processed and communicated to our clients.
“We need to have an in-depth analysis of the current state of our billing system and bring it up to a [satisfactory] level,” said Thebolla.
The mayor added that the SAP system has been identified as a big contributor to the problem.
He also spoke about the serious threat posed to Msunduzi’s ability to supply electricity effectively.
He said they urgently need to enhance revenue collection and look into ways of generating their own energy.
“Stealing of electricity mainly through illegal connections is our massive trial. We need to face this monster head-on and no matter who it affects.
“Doing so, will save lives, improve our supply capacity ... and generate the needed revenue,” Thebolla said.
With regards to water, Thebolla said lots of Msunduzi’s water goes unbilled due to leaks and theft through illegal connections.
“It is also worth noting that our water infrastructure [is] aging,” he said.
He said an engagement with stakeholders such as Umgeni Water, uMgungundlovu District Municipality and the Department of Water Affairs and Sanitation, would be necessary to assist in upgrading the city’s water infrastructure.
Thebolla said part of the council’s vision for the municipality is to ensure they develop an effective campaign to tackle the root causes behind the state of filth and decay in the CBD and surrounding areas.
“Our aim is not only to hold multiple series of cleaning campaigns but also to ensure that we hold our staff accountable in their daily duties, such as timeous waste removal, frequent street sweeping and grass cutting,” he said.
He also committed to improve supervision and support to municipal staff to ensure that they are discharging their duties competently and effectively.
He said the clean-up campaigns should be accompanied by waste management education to encourage staff, citizens and businesses to take responsibility for the cleanliness of their city.
“Some businesses operating around the city are ... culprits [with] regards to this issue. There are businesses who just don’t take responsibility for ensuring that their refuse is properly disposed [of]. An engagement with said businesses is urgently required,” he said.
Thebolla also lamented the increasing numbers of street vagrants whom he said pose a serious threat to existing and potential investors.
“[Their presence] is also a security concern to our population. However, in the context of waste management, they too are a serious contributor to the amount of dirt and filth in our city.
“A plan to control their increasing numbers in our city, as well as to eradicate or remove them from the city centre will be necessary,” said Thebolla.
The mayor said Msunduzi is inundated by complaints and claims related to potholes and damage to vehicles.
“To this end, as a municipality, we have tried everything possible within our overstretched resources to attend to our aging road infrastructure, and clearly our efforts have not been to the expectation of our road users,” he said.
Thebolla said they are aware that they need to develop a system through which they can speedily identify potholes and timeously fill them.
He said a “spot-a-pothole” campaign could be very helpful where members of the public would be encouraged to take pictures of the potholes and send them to the municipality’s WhatsApp number or email address with the date and time the picture was taken.
“Minor incentives may be introduced as an encouragement to citizens,” he added.
Enforcement of by-laws
Thebolla said there has also been an outcry in regards to Msunduzi’s “not so strong enforcement of bylaws”.
He admitted that most of the City’s existing by-laws were outdated and have to be reviewed and accordingly amended to respond to the challenges of today.
“All spheres of government must come on board in dealing with specific issues such as the influx of undocumented foreigners and other issues that go beyond the city’s reach,” said Thebolla.
He also highlighted the issue of land invasions, saying it is undoubtedly becoming a serious problem that they need to grapple with.
“Criminals continue to rob our people by selling them pieces of land owned by the municipality, or in some instances privately owned land and that has to be stopped with immediate effect,” he said.
“Our municipality is fast running out of land for economic development and also for possible/future housing,” said Thebolla.