Harrismith robbed of basic services

Issued by Alison Oates – DA Councillor Maluti-a-Phofung Local Municipality
23 Mar 2023 in Press Statements

Note to editors: Please find attached English and Afrikaans soundbites by Cllr Alison Oates.

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Maluti-a-Phofung Local Municipality is concerned with the ongoing electricity blackout in the greater Harrismith area.

Residents have been stranded since Sunday evening without the most basic requirements for life, dignity and maintaining their businesses. In the evening, there was a general electricity failure in the greater Harrismith area and before that, a voltage issue at the local water purification plant, which caused operations to grind to a halt. Massive amounts of perishable items have been lost, and businesses and the community are spending horrendous amounts on generators. Cell phone connectivity is very poor to non-existent due to the outages.

On Thursday electricity had not been restored to all areas of Harrismith and only the pump station is functioning again. Though a contractor was appointed on Tuesday, we understand that by lunchtime on Thursday all his materials had not yet arrived.

The extreme urgency of the situation does not appear to have been communicated by the municipality to the contractor. The issues of low voltage at the Wilge River Pump Station are ongoing, and a long-term solution never seems to be found.

The DA has expressed its concern about the dilapidated state of the municipal infrastructure for years and called for a Section 139 (7) intervention. Unfortunately, receiving only platitudes from the then MEC of CoGTA, Mxolisi Dukwana, who stated that there are other ways to fix the municipality.

The DA had been saying to the current Free State Premier Dukwana when he was the MEC for CoGTA, that this municipality simply cannot manage its affairs, and needs to be placed under section 139 (7) administration.

As the community is in crisis, the Mayor, Gilbert Mokotso, used his time to introduce the new acting Municipal Manager, who was initially not inclined to accept the position. The Mayor does not understand the crisis facing residents and businesses.

The DA calls on local authorities to take immediate action to restore power and provide necessary aid to the affected residents and businesses. The lack of basic necessities is not only affecting their livelihoods but also posing a threat to their health and safety. Additionally, we will continue to monitor developments and distribute updates through various social media groups.

The municipality cannot function as it should. According to Section 139 of the Constitution, “When a municipality cannot or does not fulfil an executive obligation in terms of the Constitution or legislation, the relevant provincial executive may intervene by taking any appropriate steps to ensure fulfilment of that obligation.” In accordance with this, the DA will seek national intervention.