By now we have all become somewhat accustomed to our new normal. Everywhere I go, I see residents being vigilant about wearing masks and sanitising their hands as often as possible. From Monday there will be less restrictions on our movements and the majority of employed residents will be returning to work. The easing of restrictions however require us to be more vigilant and take greater care of ourselves than ever before.
LEVEL 3 RESTRICTIONS
President Ramaphosa has announced that the entire country will move to level 3 lockdown from 1 June and I welcome this announcement. As restrictions start to ease, we will inevitably be coming into contact with more people. This increases the risk of infection. Our best way to prevent the spread of this virus is to wear a mask at all times when you are in public, sanitise or wash your hands as often as possible, sanitise all office and home surfaces regularly, avoid touching your face and maintain social distancing in public. This is really a sneaky virus and it demands constant vigilance from all of us to curb the spread!
I want to implore all our residents not to start socialising with friends and family too soon. I know this is hard and it has been one of the greatest challenges for all of us during lockdown. If we start visiting and socialising too soon, the virus will spread more quickly than ever before and all our efforts would have been for nothing. Stay at home as much as possible and travel only when it is essential. Try to restrict your contact with people as much as possible – it is the best way to keep you and your loved ones safe.
SERVICE DELIVERY CONTINUES
We have been very busy at the Municipality. Essential service delivery, which is the core function of any municipality, has continued unabated throughout the lockdown period and I would like to salute the essential services officials for their heroic work during this time. Other municipal officials who have been working from home, have started to return to our offices in a phased approach and are rotating shifts.
IMPACT ON OUR ORGANISATION
As an organisation, we have not escaped the effects of COVID-19. Several staff members and two councillors have tested positive and are currently recovering. As we are made aware of positive cases within our organisation, we follow all protocols and decontaminate the affected work spaces. The Health Department then takes over as they are the body responsible for tracking and quarantine protocols. Please join me in wishing these individuals a speedy recovery.
From 1 June, Traffic Departments across the country will start reopening. Our safety measures have been put in place and we are ready to go but we are awaiting the approval of Province to reopen our Traffic Department. All residents who missed learner or driver licence appointments during the first phases of lockdown, will be contacted to reschedule their appointments. The lockdown has caused a backlog at certain departments and I want to assure you that we are working hard to clear this backlog and tend to all the needs of our residents.
We have implemented strict measures to ensure the safety of officials, councillors and residents who visit our municipal offices. These include:
- Thermometers and sanitizers at the entrances to municipal buildings;
- Screening forms to be completed by staff and visitors daily;
- Protective gear such as face shields and masks are available to all councilors and officials;
- Workspaces, bathrooms, kitchens and vehicles are cleaned and sanitized continuously;
- Ward offices remain closed to prevent face-to-face contact.
As far as possible, I would like to encourage residents to continue contacting us electronically via our social media platforms, email, telephone, WhatsApp lines or through our brand new Citizen Mobile App, instead of visiting councillors and officials in their offices. The safety of our staff and residents is our top priority.
Like many companies across the world, we have had to embrace technology to help us perform our work in a safe and transparent manner by making use of streaming services to conduct our first ever virtual Mayoral Committee Meeting and Council Meeting. We will continue to make use of this technology for the time being so that councillors can safely take part in council meetings. We also put measures in place to have our meetings streamed to the public and I was happy to learn that more than 150 people tuned in to view our first ever virtual council meeting this week.
IDP & BUDGET
During this meeting, we approved the IDP and Budget for the 2020/2021 financial year. Although we were all looking forward to the launch of various new and exciting projects, we have had to re-evaluate and plan very carefully. This is a budget year like no other, as we have had to take into account the enormous and disastrous impact of COVID-19 and the lockdown on the lives of our residents as well as our local, national and international economy. We therefore had to postpone some projects and make cuts to others in order to compensate for the decrease revenue stream we are anticipating in the coming financial year. We also expect cuts in government funding when National and Provincial Departments present adjustment budgets in June and July. We will however be addressing this by means of an adjustment budget in September, which will also give us the opportunity to better anticipate the effect of COVID-19 and the lockdown on our own budget.
Our focus is therefore driving efficiencies and doing more with less. Our core purpose remains service delivery and therefore the majority of our capital budget is invested in the maintenance, upgrading and expanding of our critical infrastructure like waste water treatment works, electricity networks, roads and water infrastructure to ensure quality service delivery to all our residents. This is also critically important to support our local economy. We further made provision for critical security and safety services and have budgeted significantly for street lighting, the lighting of public spaces and CCTV cameras.
We have made every effort to keep our rates as low as possible, especially in these difficult economic times. The cost of electricity is however out of our hands as it is determined by NERSA and ESKOM. My budget speech and the full budget document is available on our website and I encourage you to have a look at our plans and proposals for the next three years.
COVID-19 RELIEF FUND
As we are facing harsh economic times, I decided to take an item to council that will give all councillors the option of donating to the Mayoral Fund for COVID-19 relief efforts. This in line with recommendations made by SALGA who advised municipalities to create a Section 12 fund for COVID-19 relief efforts. I am happy to report that the majority of councillors approved this item aimed at assisting the most vulnerable members in our community.
The item speaks specifically to the 4% increase that is applicable to all councillors across South Africa. The 4% increase is determined by the National Department of Cooperative Government and must also still be approved by the MEC for Local Government. Councillors are also able to contribute whatever they feel they can – this can thus be more than the 4% increase or less – it is entirely up to each individual councillor. The donation to the fund is voluntary and contributions can also be done anonymously. The “Mayoral Fund” is an established fund in terms of Section 12 of the MFMA that is managed by the Municipal Manager and Chief Financial Officer and audited by the Auditor General of South Africa. It is often colloquially referred to as the “Mayoral Fund” as I partake in various fundraising initiatives throughout the year to raise money and donations for this fund. If you want to donate to this fund, you can contact my office or the Municipal Manager’s office who will gladly assist you.
I want to thank all our residents who have continued to pay their monthly accounts despite these difficult financial times. It allows us to continue delivering services to all. Please stay safe and take every precaution necessary.