Is this the worst run municipality in South Africa?

It is nearing sundown on a Friday and parked on the financial institution of the Klip River in Vereeniging, Leon de Klerk sits in his bakkie, door open, sipping a beer and watching the placid waters.

His grandfather taught him to fish at this very spot when he was 4.

Now, 42 and a blue-collar employee at the Mittal Steel manufacturing unit, the serene view is a welcome change from the clashing noises of the manufacturing unit workday. He stops right here most days after work on his manner residence to his spouse.

On weekends, he has a braai alongside the 200m stretch of free, publicly accessible river left in the city. The remainder of the seven-hectare Vosloo Park, encompassing the confluence of the Klip and Vaal Rivers, in addition to a 1.5km stretch alongside the Vaal, was offered way back by the municipality to personal builders.

Fishing is now out of the question; the water is simply too polluted.

“I’ll sit here for 20 minutes and I’ll see five dead fish float past,” he says. “Look, here comes one now.”

A lifeless fish floats previous us coated in flies. He factors out extra lifeless fish, half hidden beneath the willows on the reverse financial institution.

Across the river is a golf course. De Klerk reminisces how he and his buddies used to dive to retrieve golf balls and promote them for pocket money.

I’d swim with my eyes open. I might see the balls on the backside. The water was clear. Now, I wouldn’t put my finger in it.

He factors out a sewage leak just a few hundred metres away which has been gushing for “about two weeks”. Raw sewage will be seen flowing throughout the veld in direction of the river.

Per week after visiting Vereeniging, one in all the cities inside the Emfuleni Local Municipality in Gauteng, a Facebook publish by Action for Responsible Management of our Rivers (ARMOUR) confirmed that the municipality, slightly than fixing the leak, dug a channel for the sewage to stream immediately into the Klip River.

This is confirmed by Dalene Venter, the DA ward councillor for the space.

“I reported the sewage leak near the Klip River,” says Venter. “They said they’ll fix it. All they did is dig a channel from the leak to the river.”

This dam of uncooked sewage behind a pump station has been unattended since at the very least July 2019 when it was photographed by Google Streetview.

About two kilometres away, under a pump station alongside Golf Road, a dam of uncooked sewage has been unattended since at the very least July 2019 when it was photographed by Google Streetview. This is in one in all the extra upmarket areas of the city, solely 400m from the Vaal River, into which the sewage seeps.

Broken sewerage programs and failing waste water remedy works in Emfuleni – which incorporates Vereeniging, Sharpeville, Sebokeng, and Vanderbijlpark – have polluted the Vaal River to the extent that the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) has deemed it a human rights violation affecting 19 million individuals who depend on the river for ingesting water, in addition to business and industrial functions.

READ | Mandy Wiener: Residents of failed municipalities, now’s the time to take the energy again

The SAHRC investigation and subsequent report launched in February states the extent of the air pollution is threatening populations of Yellowfish “peculiar to a few South African rivers such as the Vaal” with extinction. Decreased tourism and recreation on the Vaal has had a unfavourable financial affect.

It could also be troublesome to quantify the full financial affect of the municipality’s lack of infrastructural upkeep, however the Duncanville swimming pool is a micro instance. The Olympic dimension swimming pool was as soon as an aquatic hub with flood lights for provincial galas. Besides basic public use, it was residence to a swimming membership, a waterpolo league, and utilized by quite a few colleges in the space.

The facility has been shuttered for 20 years. Along with different colleges, close by General Smuts High School (which this author attended in the Nineteen Eighties) used the pool for swimming apply and galas.

According to the college’s yearbooks, the final time it had a swimming group was in 1999, which ties in with the full-grown shrubs now rising by way of the paving surrounding the pool which as soon as supplied employment for a full-time superintendent, a cashier, and a lifeguard throughout the summer season months, in addition to cleansing and grounds employees, non-public swimming coaches, and a tuckshop operator.

Vereeniging used to have two different smaller municipal swimming pools – one in the city centre and one in Three Rivers suburb which was residence to the Riverside Dolphins swimming membership – however these too now not exist, leaving no place for the public to swim. Entire sports activities codes, together with their financial and social ecosystems, have disappeared.

The municipality nonetheless contracts a safety company to stop the Duncanville pool infrastructure from being dismantled for scrap, but it surely has decayed to the level it might most definitely should be rebuilt. The guard on obligation when GroundUp visited the pool stated there had been quite a few initiatives to repair the facility, however all had come to naught.


Potholes, malfunctioning robots, and piles of refuse on road corners – Vereeniging’s metropolis centre signifies a failed municipality.

Businesses battle blackouts

In an space the place heavy present will be heard scorching beneath pylons marching throughout the veld, failing electrical energy infrastructure is hampering companies. Owner of the Boipelo Supermarket in Sharpeville, Morwa Mooi, stated that on 11 October the electrical energy was out for the whole day, from when he awakened till 21:00. He heard the outage was attributable to cable theft, however unreliable electrical energy has change into so widespread it was simply one thing he and different companies have realized to dwell with, like the operating sewage in the streets.

Frequent unplanned outages meant he might now not promote frozen objects corresponding to ice cream, and attempting to promote hen was a big gamble. “If you want to get [chicken] cheap you have to buy a pallet for R40 000,” stated Mooi. “Then the electricity goes off and blood leaks out and the colour changes.”

As a consequence he has to restrict his stock to objects that don’t require freezing.

READ | Independent candidates hope to unseat ANC in Emfuleni

Ward 10 Councillor Peter Verbeek (DA), who sits on the finance committee, stated the municipality owed R3.5 billion to Eskom, who seized one in all the municipality’s financial institution accounts on 30 September after Emfuleni didn’t honour a compensation settlement.

Verbeek stated an settlement had been reached with the nationwide vitality regulator (Nersa) in June final year that in order for the municipality to proceed promoting electrical energy, 6% of the revenue from billing (the place collections are at about 71%) have to be used for upkeep {of electrical} infrastructure.

This would imply a upkeep finances of R159 million, however the present finances was simply R35 million, which was “an insult”, stated Verbeek. Despite this non-compliance, “Nersa decided last month” to proceed permitting Emfuleni to promote electrical energy.

He stated in one part of Vanderbijlpark there was just one working transformer, when there needs to be three. When the transformer blew it might put massive sections of the industrial city in the darkish.

With Vereeniging and Vanderbijlpark the residence of heavy business related to metal mills, he stated the business complained it was struggling market losses as a result of failing electrical infrastructure.


In the Vereeniging metropolis centre, in addition to in its suburbs, holes dug to make repairs have been left open and unmarked.

Administrative mismanagement

Chronic mismanagement by the ANC-led municipality resulted in it being put beneath provincial administration in 2018, however this has had little impact.

A report back to Parliament’s Select Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Water and Sanitation, and Human Settlement in June final year, reveals the assist supplied by the Gauteng authorities has been insufficient: “The Municipality continued to perform poorly, and a number of systemic failures (financial, service delivery and governance) persisted.”

Not solely did the Gauteng authorities fail to enhance issues, the South African Local Government Association (Salga) was of the view the province’s intervention “created some serious legislative and legal problems”.

Among these have been that the individual appointed in administration and the municipal supervisor have been the similar individual.

With refuse piled on road corners in central Vereeniging, severely potholed streets with no signal of roadworks, continued electrical energy outages and sewage leaks, it seems the state of affairs has not visibly improved in the intervening year.


Emfuleni has a R6.5-billion finances, however owes Eskom R3.5 billion, and R1.3 billion to the Rand Water Board. The municipality additionally owes Chinese company Beijing Fuxing Xiao-Cheng (BXC) and Ole Power Systems R492 million, with curiosity of 10% accruing at over R100 000 per day, following a September 2020 courtroom judgment in the contractors’ favour.

BXC, in a three way partnership with Ole Power Systems in 2014, entered a Public Private Partnership (PPP) to put in 66 000 sensible metering programs in residents’ properties, however as reported on Moneyweb, and as courtroom paperwork present, the municipality frustrated the implementation of the PPP and ultimately suspended the project.

When BXC went to courtroom, they have been unopposed, making it presumably “the highest rand value default judgment in South African legal history”, wrote Tony Beamish.

READ | Eskom wins judgment in opposition to Emfuleni municipality over R1.3 billion debt

BXC then obtained the Sheriff to begin attaching property, however in line with Emfuleni performing head of communications Makhosonke Sangweni, there was a rescission judgment in March this year.

“Part A thereof was set down and there was a ruling in favour of the municipality that BXC must remove the warrants of attachment and restore the monies it had removed. BXC has appealed against this ruling,” said Sangweni.

He stated there was at present an settlement between the events, however that the particulars “can only be shared with the public once all other hindrances are also dealt with”.

Data collected on Municipal Money reveals Emfuleni obtained unqualified audits from 2015/16 to 2017/18. However, it reveals the 2018/19 report remains to be excellent and it’s also not but on National Treasury’s information portal.

In the 2017/18 monetary year, the municipality spent 25% greater than deliberate on its working finances, and underspent its capital finances by 35%.

Operational finances over expenditure of as much as 5% is often condoned, and a major overspend of 25% signifies poor working controls.

Municipalities ought to spend at the very least 95% of their capital finances. Spending lower than 85% is a “clear warning sign” explains Municipal Money. Emfuleni spent lower than 66%.

Verbeek stated, in March this year, council wrote off R872 million in irregular expenditure, with out the processes initiated to reclaim any of it having been accomplished. This quantity equals greater than 10% of Emfuleni’s annual finances.


With the historical past of Sharpeville, along with the voters of Sebokeng and Evaton, Emfuleni has at all times been an ANC stronghold, with a excessive of 76% in 2006, profitable 65 of 85 seats. By distinction, the DA obtained a low of 17% of the vote, acquiring 15 seats.

But assist for the ANC has been waning ever since, to 70% in 2011 after which dropping to 56% in the final native authorities elections. The DA rose to 23% in 2011 and 25% in 2016.

A Sharpeville businessman informed GroundUp he didn’t consider the ANC would preserve a majority after 1 November and he anticipated that there could be a coalition council, with the risk of a grouping of impartial councillors being kingmakers.

Whoever wins energy in November has a Herculean process forward of them.

Originally published on GroundUp.

Copyright (C) GroundUp 2021

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