WHILE the cash-strapped Dikgatlong Municipality is struggling to pay off its growing mountain of debts that have risen to about R83 million compared to the outstanding amount of R61.5 million as of May last year, a delegation of councillors and employees were sent to Durban to attend the inter-municipal games, at council’s expense.
It is believed that 11 out of a total of 13 councillors travelled with their own transport from Barkly West to Durban over the weekend, while transport was arranged for about 80 employees after a council decision was taken last week to participate in the games.
There are eight ANC, two EFF, two DA and one independent councillor at Dikgatlong Municipality that serve towns: Barkly-West, Windsorton, Delportshoop and a portion of the former Diamantveld District Council.
Despite cost-containment measures that were supposed to be implemented to curb frivolous expenditure at municipalities, an amount of around R700 000 was apparently taken from the municipal coffers to fund the expenses for the week -including transport, subsistence, food and accommodation.
It has not been indicated where the funds were allocated from.
The Dikgatlong councillors and employees will be joining their counterparts from Sol Plaatje Municipality, who were allowed to cash in their leave pay in order to contribute towards their expenses to travel and stay in Durban for the week.
This is while Dikgatlong’s municipal debt is believed to have risen to about R83 million compared to the outstanding amount of R61.5 million as of May last year.
The Frances Baard District Municipality allocated R1 million to bail out Dikgatlong Municipality last year, to keep the lights on.
The decision to send a cohort of officials and employees to the municipal games has angered the local community, who are struggling with poor service delivery issues.
The Hak ‘* Steek community was supposed to be relocated to 1 200 erfs along the Windsorton road, due to overflowing sewage that is flowing in the direction of the river, but were informed that there are insufficient funds to complete the process.
“How can council say that they do not have money, if they have money to send officials to a sports festival?”
The Barkly West Ratepayers Association, as well as the Delportshoop Ratepayers Association, pointed out that Dikgatlong Municipality was falling behind in honouring its payment agreements with Eskom.
“They are paying sporadically, where some months are paid and other months are skipped. We took the municipality to court for contempt of court, where up until today it has not implemented the Section 139 to dissolve council, place it under administration and implement the financial recovery plan.
“It is over a year ago when we first took the matter to court in July 2018, in an attempt to allow ratepayers to purchase electricity directly from Eskom and requested that the Section 139 be invoked at Dikgatlong Municipality. To date nothing has happened and service delivery is as bad as ever,” ratepayers said.
Community members indicated that a contractor had finally been appointed to work on the sewerage line near Spitskop, the four-way intersection between Mataleng and De Beershoogte and at Barkly West Primary School.
The Dikgatlong municipal manager, Kagiso Modise, said that the mayor would have to respond to media enquiries, although she was not in town yesterday and was expected to attend a meeting with Northern Cape Premier Zamani Saul in Upington today, where he has summoned all mayors to attend.
It was indicated during a National Council of Provinces visit last week that Northern Cape municipalities owe Eskom R1.3 billion for electricity, compared to R192 million that was owed in 2015.
Prior to 2011 there was no municipal debt but currently four municipalities – Kai Garib, Gamagara, Siyancuma and Tsantsabane – owe Eskom R639 million for bulk electricity supply.