James Letuka MPL
Free State Provincial Legislature
ESKOM has issued notice that it would proceed with the suspension of bulk electricity supply to three Free State municipalities tomorrow, Friday, 03 October 2014, at 12:00 noon due to failure by the provincial government and the councils of Ngwathe, Dihlabeng and Maluti-a-Phofung municipalities to come forward with tangible payment plans to settle a cumulative debt owed to the amount of R736 million.
ESKOM has also made public that it has initiated the process to suspend bulk electricity supply to the Matjhabeng municipality for the same reasons of non-payment.
The MEC for Finance, Elzabe Rockman, and GOGTA MEC, Olly Mlamleli, announced at the end of July that an agreement has been reached with ESKOM for the payment of outstanding debt. It is our considered view that both MECs have been misleading the public. The provincial government is playing with fire when it reassures residents that electricity supply will not be suspended and that a resolution has been reached, only for the truth to reveal itself that no such agreements or resolutions have been adopted. These were clearly delay tactics.
The Free State government is in effect actively contributing to the destruction of trust between government and citizens. This can have disastrous consequences on the socio-economic stability of the province.
Governance in the Free State is on the verge of collapse. It was recently announced by the National Department of Performance Monitoring and Evaluation that governance in the province deteriorated by five places making it the second worst governed province after North-West. Even the dysfunctional provinces of the Eastern Cape and Limpopo scored higher.
In addition, all Free State municipalities failed to obtain clean audits for the 2012/13 financial year. Municipalities throughout the province are unable to manage their finances appropriately. Municipalities fail dismally in the collection of outstanding revenue from residents resulting in a staggering R5.4 billion in household debt.
The DA cannot allow that paying residents are to be held responsible and threatened with suspension of services because of the incompetence of municipalities. We are in the process of obtaining a legal opinion on measures we could take to prevent the disconnection of electricity supply by ESKOM.
The DA has also been on record stating that ESKOM’s dilemma of non-payment by municipalities for services rendered should be dealt with by the national cabinet who oversee public enterprises in conjunction with the provincial executive committee and municipalities.
The Free State provincial government itself is not in a healthy financial situation. The Provincial Department of Education is struggling with a R1.2 billion shortfall and the provincial Department of Health is in complete crisis struggling to address a snowballing shortfall in accruals that tops R1.1 billion over the last five financial years.
The Free State under the Premiership of Ace Magashule is heading towards a severe and disastrous financial crisis. Unless the provincial government adopts and implement urgent measures the province could see itself placed under administration. The only logical deduction we can make is that the ANC is unfit to govern.