We are so grateful for this incredible bumper holiday season with tourists returning to our coast.
We all hold our breath that in spite of ANC promises, the infrastructure and services will be able to cope with what can be an amazing restoration of the electricity disaster of December 2014.
Tourism together with agriculture remains the most important economic driver in Kouga, creating thousands of jobs annually.
The seven coastal villages are full of holidaymakers, especially Jeffreys Bay, Pellsrus, St Francis Bay, Aston Bay, Oyster Bay and Paradise Beach. Humansdorp is also packed out with family and friends for a happy holiday season.
It is essential to understand the dynamics in Kouga Municipality in terms of governance and service delivery.
At the last two council meetings the DA specifically asked for full reports on the preparedness for the upcoming holiday season of this ANC governed municipality. Council was informed that all services were ready for a bumper season.
As the Democratic Alliance we wish to acknowledge all the problems and frustrations, but that we must split two issues here – political and administration / services.
Considering the realms of operation, the municipal staff are limited to a budget as approved by Council and this budget must be in line with the integrated development plan (IDP). These two very important municipal processes / documents are, due to political interference, not aligned.
So our question is whether the money is spent on infrastructure maintenance and core service delivery and we know it is not. The ANC has 15 councillors and the DA 14 councillors which means an ANC majority of 1. Even if there is one ANC member absent, the Speaker still has a casting vote, giving the ANC a majority again.
It is of great concern that the infrastructure in Kouga has reached a state of “threatening collapse”. Some of it must be ascribed to the lack of maintenance and administrative management with again serious political interference and it is always the maintenance budget that is cut, when cash flows are impacted.
Furthermore, Kouga does not generate enough income to invest sufficiently in new or replacing old infrastructure. And if there is capital, one must ask how efficiently this is applied. When capital assets are disposed of those funds should be invested in other capital projects.
Considering the current holiday influx against the services capacity, there are serious shortfalls and we salute the staff who are trying to cope as best they can. We need to question the municipal manager on the poor maintenance of the service vehicles, how many are broken down and out of circulation.
One only has to look at the poor service delivery in villages such as Ocean View, Pellsrus, Sea Vista, Thornhill, Loerie, Stofwolk in Hankey and Cyril Ramaposa village in Patensie. How often must we as DA fight to have the buckets cleaned on a weekly basis from makeshift toilets in the informal settlements.
The roads in our townships are horrid, with potholes galore in our tar roads all over the rest of Kouga.
It is a shame to see raw sewerage flowing in the streets on a regular basis and huge piles of refuse not removed for over a month.
There seems to be an outcry against the suspension of municipal staff. It needs to be stressed that some suspensions may perhaps be justified and others are because of shear political interference.
The DA has always been adamant that legal due process must be followed in every single issue tabled in council on confidential documents, normally staff matters. Every suspended staff member must be charged within three months and the case resolved according to proper procedures within a reasonable period.
The issue of the director of infrastructure is bandied about in the media. He was suspended 16 months ago and went through all the processes and it was found that there was no irregular actions can be held against him.
It appears as if there is now further political interference since he has been offered a termination package. Since nothing can be held against this director he rejected the offer and insisted his contract being honoured to continue working.
So the question is now, will the political interference continue? We can recall previous and current looming cases. The political interference has no regard for due process and court findings.
In every one of these cases the DA has divided on the issue to force the ANC councillors to abide by the law. The time has come for them to he held jointly and severally liable for even the high legal expenses in Kouga.
Now is the time to share and understand that we must maintain a balance in our criticism in the media against our paradise we need to maintain. We need to create a Kouga where investors will grow business to create the much needed jobs in a society where the unemployment rate of well over 26%.
The problem is that only the “pain” or symptoms are always addressed and not the core problem of proper financial and administrative management.
We understand the frustrations of so many people at present as we are in the same position. We can only address this at the upcoming local elections in 2016. Everyone who is now so angry about the service delivery must please remember the feeling and make sure they vote for a better future and good governance for all the people in Kouga.
In the meantime we will support and encourage the municipal staff to deliver services as best they can.
So for now, we wish everyone a merry Christmas, a prosperous New Year and a happy holiday season.
Elza Van Lingen
DA Leader in the Kouga