Merafong residents face the imminent threat of 14 hours of blackouts per day if the municipality fails to draft an acceptable repayment plan for the millions of Rands it owes to Eskom.
As of July 2019, the outstanding amount owed to the power utility amounted to R53 million.
This is the same municipality that lost R50 million of public funds through the illegal investment with VBS.
It is no secret that Merafong has not implemented adequate financial controls to stem this unabated rising debt. Collection rates are exceptionally low, and the municipality is fighting a losing battle against illegal electricity connections.
In 2017, former Gauteng Finance MEC, Barbara Creecy indicated that the Gauteng Provincial Treasury and the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) would be assisting ailing local municipalities with recovery plans.
It is abundantly clear that these recovery plans amount to nothing more than rhetoric with little implementation.
Yesterday, Gauteng MEC for COGTA, Lebogang Maile indicated that his department would be setting up a commission to investigate and intervene in the affairs of failing municipalities.
MEC Maile indicated that in the case of Merafong, the Department would implement Section 154 of the Constitution to develop a draft recovery plan with the assistance of the departments of Economic Development, Treasury and Mineral Resources.
However well-intentioned the MEC’s announcement, it is too little too late for the residents of Merafong who will likely be subjected to mass load-shedding come Friday 23 August 2019.
Merafong and its residents have, for far too long, been ill treated by the Council who have sought to enrich themselves by emptying the public purse.
If MEC Maile is genuine in his concern for the wellbeing of Merafong, he must urgently liaise with Eskom and take strong action against those who have brought the municipality to its knees.
As done in the DA run Western Cape, well performing municipalities are rewarded with additional grant funding. This should be emulated in Gauteng instead of continually bailing out failing municipalities who habitually waste valuable public money.