Picture by Casten Phalane
In late 2015 the people of The Oaks in ward 03 declared to the municipal authority their wish to have a shopping complex. It took the blocking of the major road and other forms of protests to get the former mayor to meet with the residents at the local tribal authority premises. This community need was tabled to the Mayor and his entourage and a promise was made that the shopping complex processes will be prioritized and speeded up. And that was the end of the story and the issue has since disappeared from the radar and the question of a shopping complex remains a pipedream.
In 2016 and as a campaign tool the municipality broached the issue once more which they sensed would pose some serious challenges during the local government elections. During the protests the governing ANC was conspicuous by its absence and the opposition mainly the EFF and the DA took advantage by filling the void. It was obvious that contest was going to be hot and as usual the ANC used its access to official voice to once more treat the community to a mixture of lies and deceit.
The outcomes of the elections retained ward 03 for the ANC and also produced a Mayor. In the aftermath of victory the Mayor embarked on an imbizo road show and the community of ward 03 got another opportunity to raise the issue of the building of a shopping complex. Still fresh from being inaugurated the Mayor offered to accelerate processes to ensure that the shopping complex is built. That was in late 2016 and this is April 2017. There is however no sign of a possibility of success in regard to the accomplishment of the task.
It was always going to be difficult for the mayor to undo the backlog that accrued under the leadership of the previous mayors. Be it as it may it could perhaps have been easier for the mayor to have started by analyzing the backlog and developed an approach of reversing the damage. Instead she seems to have opted to own the damage inflicted on the municipality by other people. As a result the status quo in terms of proper service delivery remains the same. It is optimally encumbered.
For instance the Sepeke Cultural Centre and the pottery projects are now white elephants. The ignorance of the municipal authority allowed the infrastructure of the two projects to be severely vandalized. If there is anything to be salvaged it would be like the projects are being started afoot in terms of funding. In essence this is a question of public funds gone to waste and no one is held responsible for the reckless spending of public funds. Millions of public funds were wasted and the municipality is unable to correct the situation. It is obvious that under the ANC governing municipality looting remains part of the central preoccupation of the public representatives.
The issue of the shopping complex points to a serious anomaly on the part of the leadership to generate a development plan. To them a shopping complex seems to be a luxury the community can postpone and allow the rot to fester even further. The wasteful expenditure that is being incurred on a regular basis validates the fact that the municipal leadership is without a cogent development plan.
The total lack of accountability and the obvious cover ups is the illustration that service delivery is treated as a foot note. The issue of the two projects is raised not to divert attention from the key subject of the shopping complex but to drive the point home that if the mayor fails to deal with a completed infrastructure how can she manage this big one from scratch. The fact is development is preceded by planning and it is quiet clear that the municipal leadership does not have capacity to plan. That she operates without the necessary political authority is a fact but it could have been proper for her if she had invested focus to the many projects that have turned into white elephants.
Ward 03 in particular The Oaks is a transit point in the municipal jurisdiction and building a shopping complex would go a long way in creating the necessary jobs and alleviating the plight of the community in accessing goods and services from far away distances. The situation as it stands is like the municipality buying petrol from a local service station and donating it to SASOL. The municipal area on the side of the villages qualifies to have even three shopping complexes. Unfortunately the people still rely on Hoedspruit, Tzaneen and Phalaborwa to access convenient services. The bottom line is people that work in the three towns return home the same way as they left every morning.
Perhaps it is about time for her to come clear on this shopping complex project rather than to raise expectations of the people with broken time frames. It is so because late last year she promised that the issue was going to be finalized within two to three months. This year she even went to an extent of not understanding the relevant department responsible for land when she made yet another undertaking to the local tribal authority. All these unsure promises will of course come back to bite her credibility in the eyes of the people. It will therefore be proper for her to stick to the truth so that all stakeholders can be involved in the processing of this important project.
Whereas we respect her right to make undertakings as the political authority it will be equally prudent for her to engage the community in order to find a solution. It will be equally important for her to ask the Mopani District Municipality about the delay to complete the water project because R91MILLION has already been paid to contractors since 2012. Today and as a result of these shortcomings two major projects are just staring each other in the eye with no progress. The shopping complex ground remains barren and the reservoir stands on the opposite side like an ancient monument. If the Mayoral imbizos were a budgeted transaction and the submissions of the people are not attended to then it was a fruitless expenditure.
Among other issues the Mayor promised to deal with were: TVET College, Constituency office, Land Claim, paving of The Oaks main street, waste removal services, Finale road, shopping complex, street lights, municipal bursary scheme improvement, the local clinic not operating 24hrs, boreholes, low level bridge, and maintenance of internal streets. It is totally impractical that the Mayor can be able to attend to all these issues without the involvement of all stakeholder committees. It will never work if political language replaces special skills resident in the abilities of administrators within the employ of the municipality. To overcome the massive service delivery backlog the Mayor and her collective in the council will do better to start planning in terms of identifying key blockages, remove them and find workable solutions. Due to the fact that service delivery is a process any attempt to subject it to political bickering will render projects redundant.
If the political games in the branch are anything to go by then there is a reasonable conclusion that the Mayor may be derailed and need to come out afloat and put the interest of the community above all these shenanigans. Equally important is the fact that it will always be difficult for any politician to operate effectively without a constituency. Dispensing patronage in order to garner support will obviously explode when it becomes difficult to satisfy everybody. The administrators should therefore be allowed to exercise their job specifications because once they are exposed to the political horse trading it will be difficult for politicians to execute their oversight role. If administrators are made to fly lists along factional lines for potential employment albeit temporal such a situation will render the political authority impotent and irrelevant.
This is the opportunity for the Mayor to lead the way and in this regard she should get the facts correctly about reasons for the delay in terms of the shopping complex. Obviously some steps were already taken and paper work exchanged hands so it is important for the municipal leadership to collectively work to ensure that this much needed project is attained. Those who were involved in the initiative should be consulted so that they provide the necessary guidance as to what are the reasons for the delay. This will assist the political leadership in finding a lasting solution. In a nutshell participatory democracy means that people should be involved unreservedly in matters pertaining to the development of their own communities.
VIDEO OF THE MAYOR (IMBIZO) THE OAKS
Politics & Governance