Ministerial team restores hope to people of Balfour

Monday, September 7, 2009

Balfour - A government delegation sent to the troubled Balfour Township in Mpumalanga on Monday uncovered a series of service delivery discrepancies in the area.

But the visit, led by Minister in the Presidency responsible for Performance Monitoring and Evaluation, Collins Chabane has also left the people of the area with some hopes that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

President Jacob Zuma visited Balfour last month where service delivery concerns were raised to him by the locals.

The area has been among the areas hit by service delivery protests in recent months.

Following consultative meetings with members of the Dipaleseng Local Municipality and community structures, Minister Chabane and his team identified legitimate challenges and concerns raised by communities and it was agreed that these should be addressed as soon as possible.

They include schools in the area that have not been properly ranked which led to inaccurate or insufficient allocation of budget/ subsidies to run their schools. The Department of Education will start a process of re-ranking of quintile of wards and schools.

There were also challenges in transporting 85 pupils from the neighbouring farms and the department had agreed to explore the feasibility of introducing boarding school facilities in Siyathemba residential area.

The Presidency said government together with all stakeholders will continue to explore the feasibility of establishing Further Education and Training (FET) College. This will be preceded by the short term consideration of setting up a satellite college with Gert Sibande FET in Siyathemb.

The team concluded that, in response to unemployment challenges, government will support the existing community initiatives aimed at fighting unemployment and poverty. These include community laundry and cooking oil projects.

National and Provincial government will assist in the alignment of Integrated Development Plan (IDP) to the municipal budget and ensure that projects identified in the Social Labour Plans (SLP) by the Department of Minerals are implemented.

Other decisions taken to benefit the community include the Burnstone Mine which has made a commitment to source the workforce from the local community, while R100 million will be spent to set up a Dipaleseng Foundation, upgrade Steward Street at R3.5 million and renovate two Multi-Purpose Centres, Itumeleng and Greylingstad.

The mine also committed to renovate the Amukelani Primary School and would provide bursaries to five learners within the municipality for tertiary education.

The Department of Home Affairs will also be extending services from two days a week to five days a week at the Thusong Service Centre in Siyathemba.

The department will provide mobile services to remote surrounding areas in partnership with the Department of Social Development.

The services which will be provided include registration of social grants to deserving beneficiaries with alternative documents, while home affairs rolls out its services to address the backlogs, improving the municipal indigent register and home affairs services.

The Department of Social Development will draw in Faith Based Organisation and expand on the "Ke Moja" programme for young people and will also finalise all outstanding foster placement cases so that all children are placed and access foster care grant.

The provincial government has decided to complete all incomplete houses in the province this financial year and Siyathemba has been included in the priority list. The Dipaleseng Local Municipality has budgeted for 100 houses which will be built within the current financial year

A Community Policing Forum will be established with the community and the process is already underway led by the Department of Police. The province is also exploring feasibility of establishing a satellite office in the short term and builds a police station in the long term.

The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) is also committed among others to establish an NYDA office in Siyathemba, to assist the municipality to finalise municipal youth policy and strategy, facilitate issues of skills development through public and private sector initiatives, the establishment of the Youth Council in Siyathemba and will further convene a Skills Development Summit by end of October.

The MECs of Health in Gauteng and Mpumalanga, Dikeledi Mahlangu and Qedani Mahlangu have agreed in principle to sign an agreement governing a relationship that will allow access of the Siyathemba community to the public hospital in Heidelburg, Gauteng.