President Cyril Ramaphosa has assured residents of the Lejweleputswa District Municipality that government at all levels is working hard to ensure that the challenges that they face are resolved.
The President was leading a District Development Model (DDM) Presidential Imbizo at the Kopano Indoor Sports Centre in Thabong, Welkom, in the Matjhabeng Local Municipality.
This was the President’s follow up visit to the Free State, following the initial DDM Presidential Imbizo held in Mangaung in April last year.
“One of the reasons why we hold Imbizo is to give citizens an opportunity to speak out. Just like you have today…and you have expressed your challenges. When you speak out on these challenges, we do follow up.
“We know that there have been a lot of problems. But this government is not standing in one place. We are finding solutions for all the problems that our people are facing. Every day we are making all attempts to correct the wrongs that were committed in the past, the wrongs that are being committed right now,” he said on Thursday.
The President acknowledged that some municipalities are not serving communities in the way they should.
“A lot of the municipalities are not working in the way that they should be. Other municipalities were working but were ruined because people were stealing money. Now, where we are, we are rebuilding these municipalities. Some of the functions of some municipalities have been taken over at national level,” he said.
During the Imbizo, community members from across the district shared some of their frustrations with the President and Cabinet which echoed some of the sentiments raised in the first Free State Imbizo held last year.
The communities raised a variety of challenges particularly on sewerage and water, a need for housing and crime and police visibility.
Cabinet Ministers took turns to respond to the challenges that the area is facing and reported back on what the various departments have done to respond to the prior challenges.
Human Settlements Minister Mmamoloko Kubayi told the gathered community that the department is in the process of building thousands of houses for those in need.
“In the Free State we had some challenges. As we speak there is a contractor that is in the Free State wherein, we will build 2000 houses. We will prioritise those who have come here – especially older people – to talk about their need for housing. Sometimes we have a bit of a problem, where people appear incorrectly in the system,” Kubayi said.
Water and Sanitation Minister, Senzo Mchunu-- who faces the challenging task of resolving the area’s water and sanitation issues -- urged community members to “just be patient with us; we are hard at work”.
He explained that following the previous Imbizo, a water board-- Vaal Central-- was appointed to fix dysfunctional waste water treatment plants, pump stations and fix collapsed sewer lines.
“In the refurbishment of waste treatment works we found that there were nine out of 11…that were dysfunctional. We have completed one. There are two that are very close to completion and the rest we will complete next year.
“On refurbishment of sewer pump stations, there are 57 in Matjhabeng… 52 were dysfunctional. Ten contractors have been appointed and they are dealing with work already. Overall, the work to completion is at 34%. We have not gone very far but we are advancing, we are going forward.
“Sewer lines that need to be fixed are 1 543km [long]. We have 129km and then we still remain with the rest to cover.
“In reality that 129 is out of 463km that have collapsed sewer lines…totally collapsed. We are advancing [and] work is continuing on the ground,”
He added that in terms of water supply, one of the lines that supply Matjhabeng is not functional. However, R243.7 million has been allocated to refurbish it.
Meanwhile Minister of Police, Bheki Cele said the South African National Defence Force has been brought in to address the illegal mining challenges.
“We have just added 395 SANDF to come and assist to end the [illegal miners] issues here. There are people that we have arrested. One person who has been terrorising the population...known as ‘One eye’, we have arrested him and he is serving a life sentence in prison. We have unfortunately arrested a police officer who was working with criminals here.
“We have been here after [the initial] imbizo five times,” he said. This involved a visit by the Minister, two visits by Deputy Minister Cassel Mathale and two visits by the National Commissioner General Fannie Masemola.
“There are many things that we have tried to fix in this province. What I can say is that for CPFs [Community Policing Forums] the province has been budgeted for R3.5 million out of R17 million nationally. Besides that, it is important for the CPFs and their leadership to tell us what they need. Two stations…raised the issue of the transport. We have sent 10 cars…so that they can work on visibility.
“On the 15th [December] we’ll be taking out the last batch of 10 000 police. This province got almost 700 and they will be sent to these police stations. We assure that in terms of the warm bodies at the stations, we will be doing well very soon. We will continue to come back and report things that we have achieved,” he said.
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.
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 DDM 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.– SAnews.govza