Free State communities share expectations ahead of Imbizo

Thursday, December 7, 2023

As scores converged at the Kopano Indoor Sports Centre in Thabong, Free State, for the 11th District Development Model (DDM) Presidential Imbizo, some local residents of the Matjhabeng Local Municipality shared what they expected to be addressed by authorities at the gathering.

Speaking to SAnews on Thursday in Matjhabeng (which falls under the Lejweleputsawa District Municipality), Kgosi Mmelwana from Welkom said he was keen to hear President Cyril Ramaphosa’s message. He was especially looking forward to hearing what Ministers would have to say on education and health-related matters.

“I am glad that the President and his Cabinet Ministers have descended on our town. We want to tell the President what we need as a community.

“We still need more schools and healthcare facilities. Some of our learners walk long distances to school,” Mmelwana said.

Echoing his sentiments, Dithabo Mmutle, said some community members still travel long distances to access government services.

“We want government offices to be closer to where we stay. We spend a lot of money traveling to government offices to access services,” she said.

A Grade 12 learner at a local high school, Abraham Sithebe, said he was most concerned about the high unemployment among the youth.

“Young people go to school and at the end of the day, they are not employed. Government needs to take care of our people. We don’t want them to end up becoming drug addicts,” he said.

Today’s Imbizo in the Free State is the second in the province since the Presidential Izimbizo started in 2022. President Ramaphosa’s first Imbizo in the Free State took place in the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality in April 2022.

During the 2022 engagement, 42 community members - representing the seven regions of the Mangaung Metro - voiced their concerns to the President, which included lack of service delivery, corruption, inadequate housing, unemployment and crime. The towns represented in this discussion included Van Stadensrus, Soutpan, Dewetsdorp, Wepener, Thaba Nchu, Botshabelo and Bloemfontein.

Ministers present at last year’s Imbizo had committed to dealing with pressing matters, including the standard of water and sanitation, and the state of roads.

The aim of the DDM Izimbizo, which have taken place throughout the country, is to provide an interactive platform for communities to engage and interact face-to-face with the President, Ministers and the provincial and local leadership.

The District Development Model enhances integrated and sustainable service delivery through the maximisation of intergovernmental planning, budgeting and implementation towards creating inclusive economic opportunities for locals.

The DDM, which was introduced and adopted by Cabinet on 21 August 2019, aims to improve cooperative governance and enhance service delivery, in line with the National Development Plan.

Focus on Lejweleputsawa

Today’s Imbizo takes place in Lejweleputsawa District Municipality, which consists of five local municipalities, which account for a third of the province. The district municipality is made up of the local municipalities of Matjhabeng (whose economy is mainly anchored on the mining of gold and uranium and it is the hub of the Free State Goldfields), Masilonyane, Nala, Tswelopele and Tokologo.

Under the theme “Leave No One Behind”, today’s Imbizo will allow the President and other leaders in government to assess progress made and be briefed on challenges associated with the improvement of service delivery since the President’s previous engagement with communities.

Ahead of this week’s Imbizo, the national, provincial and local spheres of government, as well as State entities, embarked on pre-Imbizo build-up programmes across the Free State.

These activities were undertaken to stimulate communities’ participation in the Imbizo and to assist residents with services they may require or other challenges they wish to report.

Stabilising Mangaung

Last year, Cabinet approved an intervention by the national executive in the governance of the Mangaung Metro, in terms of Section 139(7) of the Constitution.

Following failure by the Free State provincial executive to implement a financial recovery plan in the metro, the municipality was placed under national intervention.

At the time, The Presidency had said that this intervention was directed at helping the metro to improve its finances and to deliver on its mandate, and to return to sound governance and a better life for residents, the business community and other stakeholders.

In October this year, Deputy Minister in the Presidency responsible for Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME), Pinky Kekana, conducted an oversight monitoring visit of economic and service delivery-related projects in Mangaung.

She noted some of the positive joint efforts to stabilise the metro, including the finalisation of the appointment of the Municipal Manager, albeit challenges remain in certain areas.

Kekana reiterated that the DPME was dedicated to continuing to help the metro overcome its challenges in the interest of service delivery to residents and positive economic spinoffs for South Africa.

“If we can all work together through an integrated approach and create an enabling environment, it will help the municipality and lead to enhanced service delivery, investment, and economic growth.

“Our first and immediate goal is to contribute towards assisting the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality absolve itself from the S139 constitutional intervention,” said Kekana at the time.

The DPME said its departmental specialists have supported the metro with comprehensive frontline monitoring reports and proposed interventions aimed at strengthening the capacity and overall operations of the municipality. -