The annual IDP (Integrated Development Plan) road show was concluded at The Oaks community hall, the home village of the Mayor. The municipality had anticipated a target of three hundred (300) people however a fraction of the number showed up. In the main town of Hoedspruit in Ward 01 this event is hosted at 18h00 and the opposite applies to the many villages within the municipal jurisdiction. The 10h00 time on a working day seems to be a deliberate act to ensure that many of the people are unable to attend this important event or is rather lack of planning at its best. Most of the precious time was consumed by pleasantries of introducing several people occupying positions because of the cancer of personality cult that is decaying the moral values of our leaders.
Even so the main programme started an hour later and many of the people have already started leaving the venue. The portion of the municipal staff compliment was so sizeable that one wondered if there were others left in their building. Perhaps it was to ensure that the event becomes the success they had planned for. Ward 03 constitutes of The Oaks and Finale villages respectively and that it is crudely disappointing that attendees could not fill the hall to the rafters. There was a sprinkle of people from ward 02, 04, and 05 who added on to the numbers. In a nutshell it remains very difficult for the municipality to plan adequately in order to ensure that all wards are covered by these meetings.
This event was the last of a six legged road show that began in Balloon moved to Hlohlokwe, Butswana, Metz (Note: postponed due to Service Delivery Imbizo) and Hoedspruit. In retrospect and without doubt this is a formidable platform for the people to input into the planning of a developmental trajectory. It is however clear that the “integrated” part of the acronym is missing in action. The IDP document was presented as a draft and its finalization would be done in due course. Piercing into it a lot of duplicity and similarity from the previous documents screams at you. The political leadership lamented this shortcoming and pointed out that they will work tirelessly to ensure that directives are followed to the letter by the administrators.
Economic Freedom Fighters Cllr Lewele Marvin was very scathing in his disapproval of the shoddy work that is being carried out in compiling the IDP document. He indicated that the reason the Directorates are failing to implement qualitative work is because they are from outside the municipal jurisdiction and therefore don’t care about the plight of the people. With regard to poor attendance he said as the EFF they have been advising that the IDP meetings should be held over a weekend so that all the people can be able to attend. He further indicated that the people should be more involved in terms of the developmental issues of their communities. He however encouraged young people in particular to attend municipal gatherings so that they can be able to raise issues that affect them
Cllr Erens Shai of the Democratic Alliance raised the issue of poor planning and that there is an unnecessary overlap wherein some councillors are running all over the wards confusing roles. He said there is great potential for tourism revenue but the municipality is failing to tab into this lucrative industry. As to the poor attendance he pointed out that it was always going to be difficult given the fact the IDP meetings are held on working days and that most of the young people are working in the farms. He was equally unimpressed with the level of commitment on the part of the municipality to create job opportunities for young people.
The IDP meeting resembled the imbizos that the Mayor embarked on late last year and issues that were raised are still the same and nothing has been done to deal with the challenges. One community member contested that the only way to correct the situation is to change the governing party. Another one cautioned the municipality about the reservoir in that its floor has cracked already and that the main pipe was not properly laid so that it can withstand the velocity of the storm water. The community members seemed very far ahead of the municipality in terms of understanding the nature of the challenges. Inasmuch as they provided the municipality with their ideas on development they felt however that there is a lack of political will to attend to these challenges.
The Mayor virtually accepted that what is contained in the IDP draft document is totally different from the needs of the community. She stated that in the final document they will ensure that they effect alterations to accommodate the needs and aspirations of the community. She was also worried that the people have lost hope and trust in the government and that they will work hard to ensure that it is restored. She furthermore said that the council will come back to the community in order to get additional inputs and that monitoring and evaluation on implementation shall be enhanced.
In essence service delivery in the municipality is terminally hamstrung and this is illustrated by the fact that many of the roads are virtually unusable. The Mokolo Cross to Mabins road is essentially a death trap and unfortunately it doesn’t feature on the 2017/18 IDP draft document. The total budget of R251m could if properly allocated address this critical road as an emergency. The municipality should treat infrastructure development as an essential base if it is to address the issue of job opportunities for robust economic activity. The meager revenue that is collected from in and around Hoedspruit town can be augmented by tangible infrastructure development. These will include amongst other things the building of proper roads with ongoing maintenance, shopping complexes and other revenue generating projects.
The budgetary constraints should be ameliorated by a way of cutting unnecessary expenditure especially on items like catering for high target audiences that are always less in real terms. The council should also improve on its oversight role to ensure that the administration doesn’t strangle the budget on unnecessary expenditure. Partnerships should be entered into with the private sector especially on tourism and farming so that the revenue stream is widely spread. Young people should be facilitated to establish cooperatives in order to create the much needed jobs. The fact that the municipality still fails to understand that infrastructure is an economic propeller points to a serious anomaly in terms of planning. The draft IDP document shows that it is structured in a manner that confuses the reader. It is time that the municipality drafts it in a very simple format and given the fact that the majority of the people speak Sepedi it will be proper if they translate it into this language. The presentation resembled a teacher reading to an assembly of kids in a kindergarten or rather to a very sophisticated audience. The people have been saying roads, water, education, tourism etc and the municipality continues to ask for more without implementing the previous undertakings.
The level of inadequacy in terms of capacity for implementation is palpable to say the least. The municipality is so small with a meager budget that in a normal situation it will be easy to implement policy on all fronts. There is a complete breakdown in synergy between the politicians and the administration especially the governing party. It is so due to the fact that comments from politicians pointed to a scenario that suggested that the draft document was entirely designed by the administration. That the political leadership can lament the lack of consistency in the draft is a cause for a genuine concern. Perhaps the devil is in the details.
It will therefore be very important for the municipality to engage key stakeholders in the finalization of the document. The intelligentsia in Maruleng should also be involved so that it can impart the various expertise located in its base. It is up to the political leadership to drive these processes in the interest of development. Young people should not be seen as a liability but a crucial community layer in transit that should be guided going forward. Sidelining the very critical abundance of talent in these stakeholders will continue to render the municipality dysfunctional thereby compromising service delivery. The municipality needs to restore hope and trust so that the communities it serves can once more become the building blocks for socio-economic development.

Goldrick Mafologela
Politics & Governance

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