This is a strange and difficult time for all South Africans and indeed for many residents of our municipality. The economic impact of the national lockdown can be seen and felt across the country and many of our residents are struggling to make ends meet as most businesses are closed and incomes are affected. For this reason, my administration has continued with its efforts of finding smart ways of helping our communities.
Council already adopted a number of financial relief measures on 25 March 2020, including the deferment of payment of rates under certain circumstances, an increase in free water allocation to indigent households and the suspension of all credit control measures until the end of the lockdown period. Yesterday, I approved another financial relief item that the interest rate set out in our Credit Control and Debt Collection Policy be changed to 0% for April, May and June 2020.
This means that no interest will be charged on accounts that have not been paid for April, May and June 2020. This is an important relief measure towards our residents who are struggling financially. It will also ensure that anyone who does not receive their municipal account on time, due to delays in printing and challenges with the South African Post Office, will not unfairly be charged interest. We encourage all residents and businesses with the means to pay accounts on time, to continue to do so as these funds are needed to continue with service delivery.
All our procedures and practices implemented since the start of lockdown is running as planned. We continue to adjust and adapt as the time goes on to address issues or unexpected challenges that arise. Our core function is service delivery and it continues to run smoothly with staff working from home as well as on the front lines to ensure that basic services are delivered throughout this lockdown period.
This week we were notified that the community-based screenings and testing for the COVID-19 virus will be rolled out to our municipality next week. We have therefore stared with the necessary preparations for this critically important process. Health Workers will be visiting Kayamandi from Monday, 20 April, to conduct door-to-door visits. A standard list of questions will be asked and health workers may then, based on the answers provided, request that a resident visit a clinic for testing.
Our greatest concern is our vulnerable residents, who have lost their sources of income during this time and who are not able to provide for their families. The Western Cape Department of Education launched its emergency school feeding programme last week and our schools were some of the first to benefit. We are so very thankful for this critical assistance to the well-being of our children in particular.
I am also very grateful for our wonderful partners who have stepped up with the #StellenboschUnite initiative. Stellenbosch Unite is a collaborative aid action purposed to provide social support to vulnerable community members during the COVID-19 pandemic. The collaboration brings together Stellenbosch Municipality, Stellenbosch University, Visit Stellenbosch (civil society), SCAN (Stellenbosch Civil Advocacy Network, representing the non-profit sector) and the Greater Stellenbosch Development Trust (administrators). As a first priority, Stellenbosch Unite will be supplying weekly food packages to identified vulnerable families. I encourage all residents who are able to make a contribution toStellenbosch Unite to visit www.stellenboschunite.org . All the relevant information is also available from our municipal website (www.stellenbosch.gov.za) as well as our social media pages.
Our traffic and law enforcement officials, along with our Stellenbosch Safety Initiative (SSI) were instrumental in apprehending three suspects involved in a local liquor store robbery. We are grateful for their speedy action and assistance and the important work they are doing to ensure law and order prevail during this time.
This is a critical time for our community and our country. Adhering to the various lockdown protocols are extremely important. If we fail to adhere to the lockdown period now, we will be faced with an even greater and more severe challenge in future. I am therefore pleading with every one of our residents, PLEASE STAY AT HOME! You are all part of our precious community and we want to see you safe and healthy.
My heartfelt thanks goes out to all essential staff working during this difficult time. This includes our medical staff, law enforcement officials, municipal staff and supermarket staff. Please thank them wherever you encounter them, they are sacrificing their safety for ours.
On 23 April 2020, the month of Ramadan will begin for our Muslim residents. Please take every precaution to stay healthy during the fast. May this be a time of peace and illumination for you and your family. Ramadan Mubarak.
The expectation is that the current national lockdown restrictions may be relaxed at the end of the month. Please continue to STAY INDOORS if possible, RESTRICT SOCIAL CONTACT, WASH YOUR HANDS and KEEP SAFE..