James Masango MPL
DA Chief Whip: Mpumalanga Legislature
Learners and teachers are facing possible disruption of schooling next week, as the eMalahleni Local Municipality is threatening to cut the electricity supply to all schools and government departments in its jurisdiction, due to the non-payment of property rates and taxes.
The DA has reliably learnt that the Department of Public Works owes the eMalahleni municipality around R18 million in outstanding property rates and taxes on behalf of schools in the municipal area. This has not been paid for quite some time, and after being warned about the impending cut, the department has yet to respond to the municipality’s demands.
The irony of the matter is that the schools have no other outstanding debt to the municipality, and that water and electricity bills are fully paid up. However, municipalities have the right to consolidate all accounts and failure to pay any of these could result in suspension of services.
The DA finds it completely unacceptable for any government department to have any long-standing debts with our municipalities. It is common knowledge that eMalahleni needs every cent it could lay its hands on, especially when one considers the water reticulation and supply crisis it is in at the moment.
The DA has on a number of occasions called on the MEC for cooperative governance and traditional affairs, Mr Madala Masuku to ensure that all departments have paid their outstanding bills with municipalities, only to be accused of “political grandstanding” whenever we point out that payments have not been made.
The education of thousands of learners in eMalahleni is now at risk, thanks to the slack approach to payment for services by a government department. This is yet another example of the Mpumalanga provincial government’s lack of commitment to the needs of the people of this province.