by Cilliers Brink MP - DA Shadow Deputy Minister of Cooperative Governance & Traditional Affairs
A presentation by the OR Tambo District Municipality in the Eastern Cape to Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance (CoGTA) has confirmed the shocking state of services in the municipality.
Earlier this year the OR Tambo Municipality became famous for paying hand-written invoices of nearly R5 million for a door-to-door Covid-19 “awareness" campaign. The abuse of Covid relief funds has enraged South Africans, inspiring the VoetsekANC hashtag on Twitter.
But the bigger story about OR Tambo is the complete failure of the municipality to fulfil its single biggest function, namely to provide water and sanitation to 1.5 million people living in rural communities.
Less than half of the people living in the municipalities comprising the OR Tambo District have access to piped water. Only 21% of residents have access to proper sanitation.
The Auditor-General has cited the Municipality for flouting supply chain management regulations, failing to collect 82% of consumer debt, and the dilapidated state of water and sanitation infrastructure.
But this does not seem to bother to Mayor and her team - 82% of the Municipality’s revenue comes from grants and transfers from national and provincial government.
Despite being one of the four municipalities where the so-called District Development Model has been piloted since last year, governance and service delivery in the OR Tambo District have only deteriorated.
In the last financial year the OR District Municipality received its fifth consecutive qualified audit outcome, and nothing presented to the portfolio committee today suggests that things will soon improve.
One explanation for the dire situation is provided by the results of the 2016 local government election campaign - the ANC holds 18 of the 24 seats in the municipal council, and successive ANC mayors seem to have assumed that there power is unlikely to decline.
But if anything is to change in the OR Tambo District it is evident that the voters will first have to change the leadership of that municipality. The 2021 local government election will present an opportunity to do so.