Thubelihle residents decry poor service delivery
The community of Thubelihle township, outside Kriel, in Mpumalanga, on Tuesday demanded that their town be removed from the jurisdiction of Emalahleni Local Municipality, accusing municipal authorities of not taking them seriously.
Kriel is a small town situated about 45 kilometers south of Emalahleni (Witbank), in the province’s Nkangala district. Emalahleni was placed under administration nearly three months ago, with Mr Theo van Vuuren appointed administrator.
Speaking during Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela’s National Stakeholder Dialogue and Public Hearing on health and the eradication of poverty, several members of the community called for Kriel to stand on its own as a new municipality, independent of Emalahleni.
They told Public Protector Adv. Thuli Madonsela that, under Emalahleni, the delivery of services to Kriel had deteriorated despite repeated complaints to and promises from the office of Executive Mayor, Salome Sithole.
Other issues raised during the dialogue included sewerage problems, poor road infrastructure, insufficient street lighting, which created an opportunity for criminal activities and drug abuse and unacceptable delays in the provision of low cost housing.
The community also complained about police services that are allegedly centralised in Emalahleni, the unavailability of a local South African Social Security Agency pay-point, inaccessibility of agricultural land for subsistence farming, provision of electricity for new households and mining companies that allegedly failed to development the community that surrounds the mines.
One woman complained that a neighbouring family was forced to flee its home after a sewage pipe-burst left the house flooded with excrement. She told the Public Protector that the municipality had failed to help the family despite several requests to intervene.
On health matters, locals raised concerns about insufficient medical supplies, alleged discontinuation of a mobile clinic facility that used to service farming communities, short operating hours for some healthcare facilities and ambulance services that are allegedly centralised in Emalahleni.
An elderly woman complained that she was told to bring her own bedding ahead of an admission to Impungwe hospital. She further alleged that a patient had disappeared without trace at the same hospital.
Earlier, the Public Protector and her team arrived unannounced at the local Community Healthcare centre, where visiting patients told her they were happy with the service they received from the facility.
However, they decried the fact that the centre, which had been billed as a 24-hour service point when it opened its doors five months ago, only operated for 12 hours a day. The centre was also understaffed and had no pharmacist, the Public Protector heard.
Responding to the complaints, Mayor Sithole told the Public Protector that she was aware of the issues raised as most of them had already emerged during the municipal imbizo. “The issue of street lighting and potholes, for example, are in our IDP [Integrated Development Plan],” she said.
Mr Van Vuuren conceded that most of the issues should have been attended to earlier. “However, we did not have vehicles, equipment and there was no communication.” He committed to have the potholes and streetlights fixed within the current financial year while the sewage problems would be attended to “within a day of two”. The community would also be able to access land for subsistence farming.
The Public Protector said her office would work with the provincial government and the municipality to look into all other allegations raised during the session. “We were pleased with the commitment to fix some of the urgent grievances,” she said.
The dialogue and public hearing focuses on strengthening government’s ability to deliver on Millennium Development Goals, particularly those on ending poverty and on health. It proceeds to Neslpruit on Wednesday, July 17, where the Public Protector will interact with organized stakeholder groupings.
For more information, contact:
Manager: Outreach, Education and Communication
Public Protector South Africa
012 366 7035
072 264 3273