Magrieta Pampier, who makes a living collecting recyclable metal and glass at the Calvinia landfill, and Jan Hugo, who helps her, boil vegetables for breakfast. “They don’t really want to help,” she said, referring to the municipal management. (Photo: Steve Kretzmann)
This district of the North Cape covers a large area of land and has only 22,000 inhabitants, but it illustrates the problems of local government across the country.
First published by GroundUp.
This is the first of our articles describing interesting neighborhoods ahead of the upcoming local elections in South Africa. Today we watch Hantam in the North Cape.
An AD neighborhood councilor in the ANC-run Hantam municipality was suspended last month. Councilor Jeanette Steenkamp declined to comment on the case, but she sued the mayor for allegedly assaulting her in March 2018.
The North Cape DA is compiling a court challenge to the decision taken by the council’s disciplinary committee. Harold McGluwa, of the Prime Minister’s Office of Ethics and Conduct of the North Cape DA, said he was “astonished” by the findings of the Discipline Committee, which ruled that Steenkamp should be suspended for four months without pay .
The municipality of Hantam in the Greater Karoo has its center in Calvinia and includes Brandvlei, Loeriesfontein and Nieuwoudtville. A council of only nine councilors governs this vast region (36,000 km2) but sparsely populated with 22,000 inhabitants. Some of the five neighborhood councilors are located in towns at the end of gravel roads more than 100 km from central city offices.
McGluwa said Steenkamp, who owns Ward 4, of which Nieuwoudtville is its largest city, had, on March 19, 2018, an altercation between Mayor Roger Swartz and DA PR adviser Gizella Opperman (now Member of Parliament ). McGluwa said there had been a personal brawl between Steenkamp and Swartz and “it is said” he hit her.
According to a schedule set by Steenkamp, she applied for a protection order against Swartz three days later, on March 22, 2018, which the city manager prohibited her from attending council meetings, in favor of the assistant mayor. at these meetings. The reasoning, as set out by the Discipline Committee’s findings, was that being in the same room with her for council meetings would cause the mayor to violate the protection order against him.
After filing a complaint against Mayor Swartz, the first appearance before the Nieuwoudtville Magistrates’ Court took place on April 24, 2018, with the trial starting in August. Before Swartz was called to the bar, he contacted Steenkamp’s lawyer to negotiate a settlement, which Steenkamp initially resisted, but then agreed. A settlement, which included details of the case that were not made public, was reached in September 2018.
Despite the settlement, disciplinary proceedings were initiated against Steenkamp in November 2018, with disciplinary hearings taking place in January and February this year. She was accused of making a false accusation of harassment and assault against Swartz, of making a false accusation of intimidation against City Manager Jan Swartz, which she put the council and the mayor in a bad light. day because of the media coverage of the case, and that she violated the council’s code of conduct.
Last month, on April 22, the disciplinary committee ruled that she was guilty of all charges except those relating to the media, and recommended that the provincial MEC of the local government suspend her without pay for four months. .
McGluwa said that while the case against Swartz went on in his personal capacity, he used council funds to defend himself in court. For this reason, the DA filed a complaint against him for abuse of public funds.
With 49% of the vote, the ANC narrowly failed to secure an outright majority in the 2016 local government elections, leading the ANC to hold just one more municipal seat than the DA, with a split from 5 to 4.
But two subsequent by-elections strengthened the ANC. A proportional representation (PR) seat escaped the DA’s reach by a margin of six votes in a by-election on August 7, 2019, allowing the ANC to hold six seats against three in the DA. The August 2019 by-election was due to the transfer of DA PR advisor Gizella Opperman to Parliament.
A November 2020 by-election in Ward 3 (Brandvlei) came after the death of ANC neighborhood councilor Frik Sterkse. The ANC saw its support increase by nearly nine percentage points to just under 64% in the neighborhood.
Calvinia has many abandoned buildings. There is an abandoned three-story inn. The sidings have broken windows. Ruined eaves open onto the city streets.
Magrieta Pampier, who collects metal and glass from the municipal landfill for recycling, has tried to get the municipality to use these buildings for its small business activities. She is in desperate need of proper storage space.
Pampier said her garden in Calvinia West was filled with bags full of recyclables she collected before sending them to Cape Town.
She said Mayor Roger Swartz was aware of her situation and that she had also met City Manager Jan Swartz on three occasions in an attempt to rent one of the city’s abandoned buildings, but to no avail.
“You realize you just have to leave it because they don’t really want to help. I’m not looking for funding, just a yard or a store, ”she said.
At the landfill, there were no municipal employees and Pampier says no one from the municipality is managing the day-to-day activities at the site. The surrounding fences have been smashed and windblown plastic litter the veldt between the landfill and Calvinia-West.
She said about once a week the municipality would send a grader to push the trash to one side and cover it with earth.
Councilor of Ward 2 Henery De Wee, who GroundUp met at his place of work at the provincial road and public works office, said the dump met national license conditions.
Another abandoned building is the Calvinia Tennis Club. It has been despoiled and only one of its four courts is functional. On this barely functional court, Annemarie van der Merwe offers private coaching to young people and a few adults.
Van der Merwe, who moved to Calvinia in 1974, remembers the tennis club being a center of social activity, but today his students don’t even have a toilet to use or a tap to drink after a training session.
The municipality took control of the facilities in 2007 and correspondence between it and the tennis club reveals strained relations.
Van der Merwe said the tennis club was the only organization to respond to a 2009 tender to hire and restore the clubhouse and two of the tennis courts, but the offer was rejected.
However, she says she has around 50 students and is “very proud” of their victories against competitors from other regions.
De Wee dismissed concerns about the condition of the tennis courts and the clubhouse, saying the municipality had invested in a new multi-purpose sports complex, although it had not been able to open it to the public by due to Covid-19.
GroundUp made numerous inquiries, including from city officials, but no one knew about a new multi-purpose sports complex. There is, however, a multipurpose lot in Calvinia-West, but it was locked and strewn with stones.
The city’s municipal swimming pool has been closed for several years. De Wee said it was because of the drought.
Calvinia’s water supply has remained safe and clean, however. De Wee said the water was supplied by boreholes and by Akkerendam north of the city. Calvinia’s water treatment facilities were recently upgraded at a cost of Rand 27 million and Rand 127 million was spent on the bulk water supply completed last year for Brandvlei, the world’s largest town. dry of the dry region.
Finance and transparency
The financial results of the municipality, followed by municipal funds, are worrying. Although the figures for the 2019/20 financial year are not available on the initiative of the National Treasury, the figures up to the 2018/19 year reveal an investment budget of 25% under-expenditure despite the large water treatment works projects.
Additionally, 78% of Hantam Municipality’s operating expenses for 2018/19 were deemed unauthorized, irregular, sterile and unnecessary. It was 95% in the previous fiscal year.
The debtor collection rate in 2019 was 80%, indicating an inability to collect tariffs and revenues for the services of a large sector of the population. Although he had a cash balance of R2 2.6 million at the end of fiscal 2019, that was only enough to cover his running costs for about ten days.
Attempts to meet with the mayor and city manager to discuss the numbers, as well as capital projects in the municipality, have been ignored. Emails sent to the mayor’s office before and after the trip to Calvinia were unanswered and no response to a request to meet with the city manager was received. In addition, two visits to municipal offices in an attempt to establish some communication with senior officials were unsuccessful.
Questions to the mayor’s office regarding Steenkamp’s suspension were also unanswered. DM
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This notice was published: 2021-05-26 12:52:33