Mkhize’s team of ‘Dr Fix-It’ busy at work

Minister appoints technocrats to sort out infrastructure backlogs

Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize
Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Minister Zweli Mkhize
Image: SowetanLIVE / File

Eleven Eastern Cape municipalities will receive a major boost of human capital to help deal with the crises of unspent infrastructure budgets.

These municipalities have failed to spend the millions set aside to upgrade and maintain basic infrastructure such as roads, electricity supply as well as access to piped water in areas where this infrastructure is crumbling or non-existent.

The teams, which comprise of provincial conveners as well as a chief engineer for each of the nine provinces, have been assigned to rescue dysfunctional municipalities.

In the Eastern Cape these have been identified as Port St Johns, Mbizana, Engcobo, Blue Crane, Kouga, Makana in Grahamstown, Matatiele and Sakhisizwe in Cofimvaba.

Also included in the list is Alfred Nzo district municipality, Mnquma as well as the cashstrapped Enoch Mgijima municipality in Komani.

Making the announcement on Tuesday, cooperative governance and traditional affairs minister Dr Zweli Mkhize said a total of 87 “distressed and dysfunctional” municipalities have been identified countrywide.

“The pride of any municipality is access to healthy potable and high quality water, good roads, a clean environment, working street lights, and an efficiently-run administration with good governance and no corruption. We are determined to build such municipalities,” Mkhize said.

“We want to build functional municipalities. Functional municipalities are well-managed and deliver the basic services.”

The technical team, which comprises artisans, water controllers, civil engineers, town and regional planners, as well as electrical engineers, will be responsible for helping to improve the spending patterns of the municipal infrastructure grant (MIG).

The task team, which will be supervised by the Municipal Infrastructure Support Agent (Misa), assumed their duties on August 1.

Misa chief executive officer Ntandazo Vimba said in the past five years, dating back to the 2013-14 financial year, municipalities from across the country had been unable to spend R8.2bn of their MIG, and that “R3.4bn had to be transferred to better performing municipalities”.

Vimba said the option to take money elsewhere did not assist the affected municipalities and the community at large, and that is why it was decided to instead hire these professionals who have the technical knowhow.

Addressing the leaders of the teams Mkhize said the engineers would find serious problems in the water and sanitation sector due to either aging infrastructure, inferior quality built historically or poor maintenance in predominantly black residential areas. He said some municipalities face problems related sewage spillage.

“You have a huge responsibility to improve the management of key infrastructure, especially in predominantly black residential areas, where people are suffering from constant outages of electricity or the breaking of water pipes leading to no water for days or even weeks and may indeed [have to action] the building of new infrastructure altogether.”

Luntu Ndalasi has been assigned to lead the Eastern Cape technical team, along with his chief engineer Mlamli Mabhulu.