Highlights of the State of the Municipality Address (SOMA) by Kouga’s mayor

Some of the highlights of a most lengthy address of SOMA 2018 read by Kouga’s executive DA mayor, Elza van Lingen, include the drought and measures taken to obtain water (dealt with by this newspaper in a seperate article); the number of vehicles; the valuation roll; the auditor’s report; ideas (but no concrete plans or details provided) to grow the economy; the Traffic Department’s problems; the new App, RDP housing attempts and free basic services for some.

As was to be expected in politics, especially ahead of election year in 2019, in her long speech Van Lingen regularly criticised and laid the blame on the previous administration while lauding or heaping amplified praise of the DA’s achievements over the past year.

Here are the main highlights:
Kouga Council recently renamed and restructured its departments, which are now called directorates, to be in line with a new vision of a corporate Kouga Municipality (KM).
Municipal Manager, Charl du Plessis, appointed in June last year, heads up the following directorates: Corporate Services under director Krishen Moodley; Finance under CFO Selwyn Thys; Infrastructure and Engineering under director Victor Felton; Community Services under acting director Nomvula Machelesi; and Planning, Development and Tourism, under acting director Kobus Marais. The latter two positions were advertised and are in the process of being filled.
The Mayoral Committee Members are: Hattingh Bornman, Corporate Services; Brenton Williams, Finance; Freddy Campher, Infrastructure & Engineering; Daniel Benson, Community Services; Bryan Dhludhlu, Planning & Development; and Frances Baxter, Tourism and Special Programmes in the Office of the Mayor.
The KM adopted an Employment Equity Plan in June last year and an arrangement was made to pay off a debt to the Department of Labour.
The municipal fleet has improved. Old and redundant vehicles plus other equipment were auctioned off and more than R1.5-million was raised. New vehicles were purchased, including two new refuse compactors and mesh trucks. The KM is buying 18 new LDV pick-ups.
The administration of municipal land including leasing and selling is being improved.
Land applications from churches and other organisations are being addressed by the KM’s Land Advisory Committee.
KM is going paperless. The aim is for all agendas to be issued electronically from June. KM will save R5-million and this amount can go to service delivery.
Local Economic Development remains key to achieving a better future for all of Kouga’s people.
Kouga Business Forum’s new chairman, Joe Ferreira, will work with the KM to forge stronger ties between the local public and private sectors.
The KM will accelerate its efforts to grow local business, the economy and jobs. The mayor did not reveal how this was going to be done.
The KM improved its Town Planning Department, which will be the KM’s driving force behind local economic development.
Approved plans and applications, is money injected into the region. The total value of building plans approved in the previous quarter alone was more than R212-million.
Town Planning is an entry point for potential investors. There is a new manager, namely Kobus Marais.
The Town Planning offices are moving to the old Sassa building in Woltemade Street, Jeffreys Bay.
As a member of the DA which has been extremely anti-nuclear over the past few years, the mayor surprisingly said it was “a big economic shock for Kouga that the proposed nuclear development at Thyspunt would not be happening soon, if ever.
“Kouga’s people have for years been divided when it comes to Thyspunt, but there is no doubt that the news came as a blow to many jobseekers, entrepreneurs, SMMEs, co-ops and businesses that believed that Thyspunt would bring a much-needed economic boost to the region.”
She, however,  remarked there is more to Kouga than just Thyspunt. There is room for growth in sectors like Tourism, Agri-processing or the Ocean Economy. Council will endeavour to unlock the full economic potential of the area. But again no clear details were provided in her address.
A focus area will be skills development and 36 learner-ships have been lined up this year in electrical engineering, civil engineering, archives and records management, human resource management and public administration fields.
The business sector is asked to develop youth mentorship programmes and become actively involved in shaping the young talent in Kouga.
The mayor invited local businesses to register as service providers with the KM.
The KM aims to improve responsiveness to residents’ complaints and inputs. A new app plus a call centre was set up in Humansdorp last year for residents to report faults, track progress and receive feedback.
There have been 9600 calls logged through this new system and about 1 200 residents registered on the app.
The Traffic Department is under pressure and has only two Live Enrolment Units to capture licence applications. The KM has requested an additional three LEUs from the Department of Transport. The current premises are run-down and too small to deal with the demand for traffic services as it is used by citizens from neighbouring municipalities.
There is a new telephonic booking system to minimise long queues (owing to shortages of staff there), but further improvement is needed to ensure a high standard of service to the public.
The KM has been getting ward offices up and running and ward assistants have been appointed to serve as an extra link between communities and Council.
A review of the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) for the coming financial year is underway. Residents are invited to attend IDP meetings for their wards in April.
The draft IDP and draft budget for 2018/19 will be tabled to Council near end March, then public consultation meetings will be held.
The KM received an unqualified audit report for the 2016/2017 financial year.
Performance management was criticised and the mayor said “this big issue” was highlighted by the Auditor General. The KM is introducing a performance management system to address this during the next audit.
A new General Valuation Roll was recently completed and property owners have been invited to scrutinise the roll and lodge objections should they disagree with the valuations of their property.
KM is upgrading informal settlements and projects for which grant funding has been allocated.
Almost 250 households at Donkerhoek received electricity in June last year and a further 270 sites will be electrified this year. The formalisation of Stofwolk at Hankey is also underway.
About 4 000 households depend on bucket toilets despite the national deadline for the eradication of this system having passed a decade ago.
The KM has only one tanker to clean the buckets. The other tanker was burnt last year by protestors at KwaNomzamo, which lead to serious delays and overflowing buckets in many areas.
The municipality has not yet replaced the tanker. To continue servicing the buckets promptly a new roster was designed, with staff working around the clock to visit relevant areas. Staff willing to make the necessary change were thanked.
The current KM did not want a single household to be dependent on buckets. Alternatives are being explored and the KM would like to roll out container ablution facilities in informal areas in the new financial year.
The R85-million upgrade of the Kruisfontein waste water treatment works at Humansdorp has reached practical completion. The plant will be able to handle up to 5Ml of sewerage per day. This is sufficient to cater for existing needs of the Kruisfontein community and will enable government to build more RDP houses.
Work on the 391 RDP houses at Kruisfontein started last year – the first houses in more than a decade. Work on top structures of 220 RDP houses at Pellsrus will start this year.
R51-million has further been secured for upgrading of the St Francis Waste Water Treatment Works. A consultant and contractor have been appointed.
Indigent households – those with a combined monthly income of two state pensions or less are encouraged to register for free basic services.
The KM is currently on a ward-based drive to re-register households that already receive service subsidies and to register new applicants. The drive started earlier this month and will conclude in June.
Certain tariff discounts were introduced in the annual budget last year. These included a 20% reduction in the cost to hire halls and sport facilities, as well as cemetery and burial-related tariffs, as requested by communities.
To stimulate development in previously disadvantaged communities, a 20% reduction for land-use applications, including rezoning, departures and subdivisions, was approved.
Littering and illegal dumping is a serious concern as it impacts on health and economic prosperity of communities.
– Summarised by Bev Mortimer