MEDIA STATEMENT BY ETHEKWINI MUNICIPALITY MAYOR CLLR. MXOLISI KAUNDA ON LATEST DEVELOPMENTS IN THE CITY AND SERVICE DELIVERY INTERVENTIONS, 25 AUGUST 2023, SHONGWENI RESERVOIR

Good Morning

Let me take this opportunity to thank members of the media who are joining us here today and those who are joining us via our social media platforms and the broadcast networks.

This media briefing follows the ordinary sitting of the Full Council which met yesterday and deliberated on key strategic issues in our City.

It is important to note that this media engagement takes place in the venue where we have just opened a newly constructed water reservoir which will alleviate water supply constraints to downstream reservoirs in Zwelibomvu, Ofundu, Salem and Clifton.

What makes this occasion even more significant is that it takes place during the Women’s Month and we all know that when there is a shortage of water in our homes, it is mostly women and girls who bear the brunt of collecting water. However, with improved access to water services, women get more time to focus on more productive activities such as education and economic empowerment.

We are indeed delighted to hand over this R28 million water reservoir which was completed last month to the community of Shongweni.

This water reservoir forms part of our efforts to improve water infrastructure in the municipality, particularly in rural and township communities. For instance, we are currently finalising the construction of another new water reservoir in Adams Mission which will address water shortages in Mbumbulu, KwaMakhutha and Adams Mission.

Other areas where we are upgrading and repairing our water infrastructure include Ntuzuma, Umlazi Folweni, Maphephetheni and Umzinyathi.

Next week, we will be handing over another newly constructed water reservoir in Mona near oThongathi to address the increase in water demand in the area.

This is over and above the repairs that we are still finalising of our water and sanitation infrastructure that was damaged during the April 2022 floods. The impact of the floods on eThekwini has been massive but we moved with speed to ensure that water supply was restored to affected communities.

Currently, the City has approved 115 water and sanitation projects that will be completed in eight months with the flood relief funding of R200 million allocated to water and sanitation projects the City received from National Treasury.

We are pleased to report that some of the extensive damage caused by the floods on our water and sanitation infrastructure has been repaired, particularly in the following areas:

• Repair of sewer main in Peace Palm in Phoenix. This sewer line contributed to the contamination of Ohlange River which impacted the Umhlanga beaches;
• Mega City sewer line which contributed to the contamination of Umlazi River and other beaches on the south.

Yesterday, the Council also approved the reprioritisation of the water and sanitation capital budget to accommodate urgent priorities. An amount of R255 million is to be reprioritised to fund the following projects:

• Procurement of jetting machines for R70 million to address the challenge of sewer blockages throughout the City;

• Emergency replacement of mechanical and electrical equipment at Ohlange Wastewater Pump Station has been allocated R10 million. This intervention will prevent sewer leakages and the contamination of Ohlange River;

• R10 million for borehole installation in rural and township communities where there is inadequate water infrastructure network;

• R50 million to rolling out alternative sanitation technologies. This project commenced in April this year and it is instrumental in eradicating pit latrines in rural communities and informal settlements;

• For the Southern Aqueduct R50 million has been allocated towards the replacement of the bulk pipe that supply water in areas situated in the south of Durban such as Umlazi, Chatsworth and Folweni;

• Installation of stationary and mobile generators for R20 million in water and sewer pump stations as a backup during load shedding;

• R30 million for generators at sewer pump stations;

• R 15 for Ogunjini package plant to alleviate the challenge of water in Ward 59 and surrounding areas.

Ladies and Gentlemen, we remain committed to resolving water challenges in the City, particularly in areas where there is inadequate water infrastructure and we are engaging these communities to make them aware of the interventions we are putting in place to address these challenges.

Where there is constant water supply, we ensure that our water quality meets the highest standards. This has been confirmed by an independent research study by News24 that our tap water is one of the safest to drink in South Africa.

ROADS INFRASTRUCTURE

In terms of road provision, we are pleased to report that 114 access roads that were damaged during the floods have been repaired at a cost of R23.6 million. Our teams have also worked tirelessly to repair 27 bridges that were washed away.

Working with the Provincial Department of Transport, completed and reopened the R106 Mbumbulu Road which is a key alternative route for motorists when the busy N3 is heavily congested. We are also finalising the construction of the R102 in Umlazi which is critical in providing access to industries located in the Durban South Basin.

We attribute this achievement to the hard work and commitment of our staff and it is for this reason that the Council took a decision to host the Excellence Awards for our city stars to recognise employees who go beyond the call of duty in providing excellent service to the public.

EXCELLENCE AWARDS (CITY STARS)

We have noted the concerns that have been raised by members of the public about these awards. It is a normal practice that every organisation reward excellent performance to motivate employees and boost their moral.

It is also important to mention that while as the leadership of the City we implement consequence management against employees who are not doing their job. Equally, we seek to use this event to motivate all those who have answered the call to serve our people selflessly.

These Awards serve to inculcate ethics in the public service as well as promoting a culture of professionalism in the sector. Through these Awards, we will be recognising excellent leadership, firm management, and self-sacrifice in providing quality and effective services to the people of this City.

We firmly believe that public celebration for those who reach high levels of performance is critical to boosting public perception for the public service – by recognising those who maintain the integrity of the public service.

You will recall that during the recent floods, the 2021 July unrest and COVID-19, our employees who were themselves personally affected by these calamities worked tirelessly to restore basic services. We want to clarify that these awards form part of the items that were approved by the Council when it adopted its budget at the beginning of the current financial year. Therefore, it is incorrect and mischievous to suggest that the City is redirecting resources that are meant to accelerate service delivery to the awards.

The report at Council indicated that the venue for the ceremony would be the City entity, the Durban International Convention Centre (ICC).

The bulk of the expenditure would be spent on venue hire, this means that no money would be wasted as ratepayer’s money would be injected back into the City. This would not be a waste as the Durban ICC is performing extremely well and continues to attract world-class national and international events considering that it faced a two-year closure due to COVID-19 restrictions.

Let me hasten to say that in the last quarter (April-June), the Durban ICC hosted 129 events generating R66,3 million. Moreover, in the past fiscal, the Durban ICC contributed R5,7 billion to the GDP and created 11 103 jobs.

INSOURCING OF CLEANERS AND SECURITY GUARDS

Ladies and Gentlemen, as a caring government we support all efforts to promote decent work and it is for this reason that the Council adopted the motion which called for the insourcing of all security guards and cleaners.

The Council further instructed the City Manager to conduct a feasibility study to determine the cost of insourcing as opposed to outsourcing those services. The report of this study will be tabled at EXCO which will then make recommendations to the Council.

ENGAGEMENT WITH RATEPAYERS

We want to take this opportunity to thank all ratepayers who have opened a room for engagement with the Municipality so that together we can find a lasting solution to their challenges.

We are confident that through these engagements, no ratepayers organisation will persuade residents to boycott the payment of rates. Apart from boycotting rates being illegal, residents cannot withhold payment for services that have been rendered.

Last week, we convened a follow-up meeting with the Westville Ratepayers Association and there are issues where we have found common ground. We are committed to listen and engage with ratepayers in the municipality and in this regard, the Office of the Speaker has planned a series of meetings with ratepayers associations in various communities.

To demonstrate that we are a listening and caring government, yesterday the Council approved the revision of the electricity tariffs for 2023/24 to 15.1% increase as opposed to 18,49% initially proposed by the municipality.

These are some of the interventions the municipality is making to meet its ratepayers halfway because we recognise the tough economic climate which makes many households unable to meet their monthly financial obligations.

INVESTMENT AND JOB CREATION

To cushion our residents, the municipality continues to expand its revenue base by attracting new investment in the City. Working with Infrastructure South Africa, we have committed to spend R10 billion on bulk infrastructure for eight catalytic projects in the City which will bring over R217 billion of investment and create over 300 000 jobs.

These catalytic projects contribute significantly to the rates revenue of the City. For instance, last week we unveiled the R 1.9 billion Giba Business Park development which will create about 5000 permanent jobs and contribute R 60 million in rates revenue when it is completed.

This continued appetite by investors to come to our City is a vote of confidence to our rebuilding efforts.

Other developments include Keystone Logistics Park in Hammarsdale, Westown in Shongweni and the Dry Port in Cato Ridge which will inject billions of rands of investment in the outer west region.

We also have grand plans for the Beachfront as it will soon boast upmarket developments which form an integral part of the City’s Proactive Land Release Strategy. In the north beach, we are giving the Circus Circus, Bike and Bean, and Minitown a major facelift.

While the Bike and Bean will transform into North Beach Lifestyle (a world-class restaurant), the popular Circus Circus is currently being renovated to a stunning fusion of Africanism and Art Deco and will be named Durban Beach Café. The anticipated opening for this venue is October 2023 and will create 45 jobs after construction.

The much-loved Minitown, which has been one of the City’s most popular places to visit, will undergo a total transformation, with a mixed-use hotel development which will encompass arts and crafts, kiosks for small businesses, retail spaces, a salon and spa, as well as dining. This R170 million investment will create 150 jobs.

It is important to note that in the period between May 2021 and November 2022, a total of 25 properties were advertised and 10 awards were made to new lessees who were deliberately excluded from participating in the mainstream economy. This is in line with the broader government’s programme of radically transforming the economy.

As we are preparing for the summer holiday season, work is underway to repair the Children Amusement Centre paddling pool in the South Beach and contractors will be on site next week. In the next few weeks, we will be officially handing over Belvedere Swimming Pool in Othongathi, Rochdale Swimming Pool in Springfield and Laguna Swimming Pool in the North Beach.

The South Beach Pool is getting a major facelift to make it more colourful and attractive as you know that it is mostly used by children.

The COVID-19 lockdown and last year’s floods caused extensive damage to our infrastructure including swimming pools. However, we are pleased that out of 54 swimming pools in the City, 33 are open and safe for swimming. This indicates that our teams have been working tirelessly to repair this infrastructure.

We want to apologise to our residents for the delays in repairing these swimming pools. The delays were beyond our control and the devastating floods compelled us to reprioritise the budget that was allocated for swimming pools and redirect it to fix roads, electricity, water and sanitation infrastructure.

GRANT SPENDING

Ladies and Gentlemen, you will recall that there was misinformation spread through the media that eThekwini is failing to spend the Urban Settlement Development Grant (USDG).

We are pleased to report that out of eight Metros in the country, we are the only municipality that has spent its grant in full (100% expenditure) as at the end of June 2023. We are confident that national government will consider giving us additional funding as we have demonstrated our capability to utilise the grant.

DISRUPTED HOUSING PROJECTS

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Municipality is consolidating the list of all stalled and disrupted housing projects with the aim of ensuring that efforts of unblocking all these projects are expedited.

To-date, plans are in place to unblock the infamously stalled Umbhayi Housing Project in uThongathi. The delays were not caused by eThekwini Municipality, but were as a result of several factors beyond our control. Most of the six years were spent on the civil infrastructure work and delays experienced impacted on the top-structure construction.

The civils infrastructure appointment was delayed at procurement stage for various reasons and the civils contractor was only appointed on 20 November 2018. Work commenced on site on 05 March 2019 after obtaining all requirements for commencement such as construction work permit.

Numerous other delays were experienced by the civil contractor because of the national lockdown from March 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions. Other delays were caused by the private landowner’s claim which took about seven months to resolve and at the time, the letter of appointment was expiring for the civil contractors.

These situations delayed the project tremendously. For this project, R72.9 million was used for the civils work. The R15 million spent from the Human Settlements Development Grant (HSDG) relates mostly to planning costs and civil infrastructure costs as there is a civils component in the HSDG.

The project funding is still available and will only be utilised when the contractor for top structures is procured. Officials are finalising the procurement processes for work to resume by October this year. We are looking forward to the completion of this project and hope there will be no further delays that will prolong the construction period and inconvenience the beneficiaries.

The effort to identify and unlock more bottlenecked projects has been intensified across the City, and plans are afoot to officially resuscitate more stalled or disrupted projects.

The built environment and infrastructure remain the backbone for the economy. We therefore strongly condemn the actions of construction mafia and acts of extortion by individuals who demand a 30% profit share of construction projects without putting in the work. The rule of law must apply against anyone who engages in such acts of extortion or deliberate economic sabotage which undermine the country’s economy.

CITY’S FINANCIAL HEALTH

Ladies and Gentlemen, our City continue to be stable and financially viable. We are pleased that the City has strong cash flow and liquidity, with our collection rate sitting at 93.5% as at the end of June and 93 days cash on hand with grants. The National Treasury benchmark is 30 to 90 days cash on hand.

Furthermore, the City’s long-term credit rating is AA, while the short-term rating is maintained at A1+. The long-term rating reflects that the Municipality’s ability to meet financial obligations is extremely high. The short-term rating means that the Municipality’s certainty of timely payment, short-term liquidity, access to alternative sources of funds is high, and risk factors are extremely low.

STAFF AND COUNCILLORS OWING THE MUNICIPALITY

Recently, there has been reports about councillors and employees who are owing the municipality for services. We want to make it categorically clear that our staff members are not allowed to be in arrears for more than 90 days in their municipal accounts, according to schedule 10 of the staff Code of Conduct.

Employees who fail to bring their accounts up to date, the municipality deducts the amounts owed from their salaries. The process is the same with councillors. However, over and above applying credit control measures, a disciplinary action must be instituted by the Speaker of Council.

We want to emphasise that councillors and staff members are also customers of the municipality, and they are subject to all credit control measures except that there is an additional process that applies to them because of the code of conduct.

ACCOUNTABLE ADMINISTRATION

Ladies and Gentlemen, we remain committed to run a clean, transparent and accountable administration.

The issues of irregular expenditure that the Auditor-General has consistently raised with us are being addressed through the implementation of Irregular Expenditure Reduction Strategy which focuses on the following key interventions to eradicate irregular expenditure:

• Automating the contract management and procurement cycle. Our finance and legal teams have deployed dedicated staff to all units to improve contract management.
• Procurement planning.
• Compliance checklists.
• Demand analysis.
• Strengthening of key budget and internal controls, and
• Capacity building.

We also have an oversight by the Financial Misconduct Disciplinary Board which expedite disciplinary processes for irregular expenditure incurred by errant officials and service providers.

However, what we have observed is that most of the irregular expenditure we have incurred, services were rendered. The only challenge is that in some instances, officials failed to follow all supply chain management processes. This does not mean that money has been squandered.

We also want to assure our residents that there is stability and unity of purpose in our City. This has been confirmed by the recent assessment by the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs which indicated that the Municipality is functional and financially viable. In addition, the Auditor-General has consistently been giving an unqualified audit opinion.

MATTERS RELATED TO DCM FOR HUMAN CAPITAL

As a principle, the Municipality does not discuss employer-employee relations issues. However, due to the public interest in this matter concerning one of our senior officials we wish to report that Council has resolved that the matter involving the Deputy City Manager for Human Capital Ms Kim Makhathini must proceed to a formal disciplinary hearing. We will update eThekwini residents once the matter has been concluded. We are confident that the matter was handled with full respect of the interdict that is in place.

RENUMERATION OF MUNICIPAL MANAGER

Council approved the upper limits of the renumeration package of the Municipal Manager pending the approval of the Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs.

Currently, the City Manager’s renumeration package is far below to that of his peers.

We wish to reassure residents that the City Manager’s salary is in line with the upper limits of renumeration packages of Municipal Managers.

CONCLUSION

We want to reiterate that making eThekwini the most caring and liveable city requires a collective effort. Therefore, we call upon all our stakeholders to work with us to make a Thekwini the premier destination of choice for investment.

I Thank You!

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