Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality on its COVID-19 response plan; Petitions
03 June 2020
The Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs was briefed by the Executive Mayor of the Ekurhuleni metropolitan municipality on the City’s COVID19 response. Three petitions were also brought before the Committee regarding issues faced by residents and businesses in the metropolitan area.
The Mayor reported that Ekurhuleni had set up a food bank to provide food parcels to residents, in addition to the food provided by the Department of Social Development. It had provided approximately R8 million worth of food parcels, which had been donated by private donors. The City had secured two quarantine facilities and had 93 operational clinics. It had disinfected hotspot areas, such as public transport terminals, and made provision for burial spaces. Social distancing in informal settlements remained a problem due to the nature of the dense population in small areas.
The City was experiencing a decrease in revenue collection and anticipated an annual shortfall of R1.2 billion. It had applied for the Disaster Relief Grant on 4 April, for an amount of R32 million. The challenge would further be mitigated through effecting credit control.
A housing development petition was presented to the Committee. Members of the community had petitioned against a proposed housing development, as there had been insufficient public consultation on the matter. However, the steering committee had managed to reach an agreement, and it had been decided that soil would be turned on Monday, 8 June.
The second petition dealt with the illegal occupation of Department of Education property in Alberton North. The stand where people were illegally occupying garages and buildings was next to a school. There had been incidents of bricks being thrown at learners, and the children being asked for money and being injured by stepping on sharp objects. There were concerns that the school may pass on disease to the settlement and vice versa. The proposal was for this informal settlement to be moved for the benefit of the residents, as well as to protect the safety of the learners. The Committee resolved that the Department of Education be invited to engage on the matter.
The third petition referred to unplanned power outages in Boksburg and Germiston, which had lasted for days on end and affected residents and businesses. The City responded that this had been due to the aged electrical network, as well as illegal connections and meter bypassing that often occurred in the winter season. As a temporary solution, rotational load shedding was being performed. Remedial action had been taken to restore the stability of electricity supply.
Members of the Committee took issue over a tweet which Mayor Mzwandile Masina had made in support of a Julius Malema article headed, “Let the white economy collapse.” Mr Masina clarified that he had not said white businesses should collapse, but rather that he believed the commanding heights of the economy should be nationalised. He also clarified that he had not said the City would purchase a vaccine, but had enquired about procuring a drug that had been used in Cuba for treating COVID19.
Ekurhuleni’s response to COVID19 impact
Mr Mzwandile Masina, Executive Mayor of Ekurhuleni, presented the metropolitan municipality’s response to the impact of the COVID19 pandemic.
He said there were 93 clinics in operation in Ekurhuleni. Two quarantine sites had been established at the Transnet School of Excellence in Esselen Park, with 400 beds, and at the Telkom Training Academy, with 91 beds. An additional 300 beds in Bertha Gxowa had been earmarked for hospitalisation. The City of had welcomed eight Cuban doctors on 28 May, who would assist with the city’s COVID19 response.
There were four homeless shelters which were able to house 384 people. The Executive Mayor and members of the Mayoral Committee had donated goods to the value of R300 000 to 16 old age homes.
Ekurhuleni had set up a food bank on 14 April at the fresh produce market in Springs. This was in addition to the food relief driven by the Department of Social Development. The food bank was funded by donors and had no municipal funds. A total of 118 organisations/donors had made donations of goods, both consumables and non-consumables, to an estimated value of R8.2 million. Thus far, 25 680 food parcels had been distributed to distressed households and 128 400 residents had been reached. The application process to receive a food parcel was done through the call centre or on email. Beneficiaries were captured in a database to maintain a record of previous donations and to ensure that there were no duplications. The target was to distribute 1 000 food parcels daily.
The City had focused on enforcing social distancing in high risk areas such as shopping centres, informal settlements, hostels, townships and taxi ranks. Taxi ranks as well as taxis and buses had been disinfected. Since the start of lockdown, there had been 1 595 arrests for contravention of disaster management regulations, and 2 290 fines issued for COVID-19, as at 31 May. Cemeteries and burials were managed daily, and regulations enforced by metro police.
The City of Ekurhuleni had had a decrease in Annual Revenue Collection. The projection for the 2020/21 financial year was a collection target of 94%, it was projected that only 90% would be collect resulting in an annual shortfall of R1.2 billion. The City applied for Disaster Relief Grant on the 4 April 2020 for the amount of R32 731 751.
Mr H Hoosen (DA) said that Mr Masina was one of the only Mayors who had donated 33% of his salary to the Solidarity Fund, which he greatly commended. He asked him to comment on his public comments regarding the collapse of the ‘white economy.’ He said that the white companies which Mr Masina stated he wishes would collapse were the same companies that were making donations for COVID19 relief to the City of Ekurhuleni that amounted to millions. These donations were pertinent at this time, considering the reduction in annual revenue collection. It was also a time for South Africans to stand in unity, so attacking the people which he had called upon to assist him was childish. Mr Masina should use his leadership to support all businesses, to ensure that those who had, could assist those who did not have.
Mr C Brink (DA) said the collapse of revenue collection was concerning. What was the effect of this on the capital programme of the city and service delivery? How was the city lobbying for support in mitigating the economic impact the lockdown had on its the finances and ability to deliver services?
Ms G Opperman (DA) asked how the City would continue to perform its responsibility to the homeless post-COVID19. The support given during the lockdown created an expectation for further support beyond the pandemic. How would the City resolve the provision of chemical toilets in informal settlements? What were the qualification criteria for food parcels from the food bank? How did the food bank ensure that the food reached the intended beneficiaries? According to media reports, the city had applied for R32 million of the National Disaster Management Relief Grant, and planned to buy a vaccine from China with some of it. Was this true?
Mr B Hadebe (ANC) asked if the City’s current plans and law enforcement resources were insufficient to enforce lockdown regulations in informal settlements. According to the Daily Maverick, in an article published on 17 April, it was stated that Mr Masina planned to procure a vaccine from Cuba using the emergency fund -- was this still part of the plan? What measures were in place for reducing the spread of COVID19 in hotspot areas such as taxi ranks?
Mr G Mpumza (ANC) commended the Mayor for establishing the food bank. He asked what verification was being used to identify the beneficiaries of food from the bank. What mechanisms were there to ensure that the food provided was nutritious? With the decline of revenue collection, what plan was in place to request assistance, other than the R20 billion? There was a serious challenge with social distancing in informal settlements -- what steps had been taken to ensure that social distancing in Level Three was being adhered to? How were the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and the South African Police Service (SAPS) being deployed and enforcing social distancing?
Ms M Tlou (ANC) commended the increase in the budget for the indigent and the establishment of the food bank. The South African Local Government Association (SALGA) had indicated that revenue collection challenges were increasing debt levels -- was the City experiencing this? What contingency plan was in place to recover revenue?
Mr M Waters (DA) asked what measures were in place to deal with the decline in revenue collection, given that Mr Masina wished that white businesses would collapse? The City of Ekurhuleni had posted pictures of food parcels being distributed by ANC councilors wearing political regalia. What was Mr Masina doing to ensure that the distribution of food parcels was done on a non-political basis, given that the food bank was fueled by donations from businesses that may or may not support the ANC?
Mr Hadebe said that people were entitled to their own opinions, but they were not entitled to their own facts. The comments made by Mr Hoosen, referring to Mr Masina’s comment as “childish,” made him uncomfortable. From time to time, opinions may differ, but it should not go as far as labelling people as childish. A level of respect must be maintained, so he encouraged Mr Hoosen to withdraw his statement.
Ms P Xaba-Ntshaba (ANC) agreed with Mr Hadebe, and also called on Mr Hoosen to withdraw his comment. She said Mr Masina had been working tirelessly to ensure that people in Ekurhuleni were sheltered, fed and were safe throughout the pandemic.
Mr D Bergman (DA) stated that a point of order could be called only as and when the infraction occurred. If Mr Hoosen had said something offensive, a point of order should have been called when it was said.
Mr Masina responded that his tweet had said, “Nationalise the commanding heights of the economy.” He had attached a statement made by Julius Malema, and clarified on what point he agreed with. To nationalise the commanding heights of the economy was what his organisation had been calling for, and does not mean that white business should collapse, nor was it racist. Mr Hoosen’s comment was unfair. The Daily Maverick had tried to paint Mr Masina as a racist. He belonged to the African National Congress, a non-racial organisation, and would not confuse his views. White monopoly capital as a system was what needed to be addressed. He did not advocate for white businesses collapsing, or any sort of racism.
The collapse of revenue collection was indeed concerning. The Minister had stated that the City must effect credit control, which would not be easy as there were many variables at play. For instance, if the airport or Birchwood Hotel were closed, it would be difficult to collect from those clients. The City was working on relief mechanisms and would ensure that over time, things would stabilise. It had gone to Council at the end of May to pass a special adjustment budget that would revise the capital expenditure (capex), as almost 66 days had been lost in construction due to the lockdown. The capex had been reviewed and the city should be back on track.
Resources needed to be made available to municipalities, otherwise more issues would arise. Many people were losing jobs, so many had registered as indigent. It was the responsibility of government to ensure that they were all supported. Ekurhuleni was the only municipality that was paying over R4 billion towards various programmes to support indigent people.
The maintenance of homeless shelters post-COVID19 was being discussed with the provincial government to formulate a sustainable strategy. In a democratic country, there should be no street kids, there should be shelters. As government, there needed to be a mechanism that would mitigate this issue. People could register for food from the food bank via hotline or email. Social workers would then assess the situation and food was distributed to eligible beneficiaries. This process was lengthy.
In the State of Cities Address, he had stated that global developments must be considered, such as a possible vaccine or some sort of medicine that may already exist, such as the Interferon Alfa-2b that had been seen to have assisted in treating COVID19 in China and other countries. The city had consulted doctors who had advised that this drug had indeed worked in other countries, but it was not a part of normal pharmaceutical stock. In the speech, he had outlined that he would follow all due processes, including that of the Medical Control Council. He clarified that he had never said there was a vaccine, but stated that should there be one, and that it must be procured in the interests of the people. The city would make an official statement on the matter. Cuba had been friends of South Africa for a long time. He had had the opportunity to welcome eight doctors from Cuba to help manage the pandemic.
The condition of informal settlements was unbearable. In one shack, there could be about ten families, which was inhumane, and a solution was needed at a national level. The process of building houses was difficult, as land was needed. The city had worked with SAPS and the SANDF in enforcing social distancing where possible, despite it being difficult in informal settlements.
The Daily Maverick had made Mr Masina a personal project, using every opportunity to insult him, and had deliberately misquoted him. There were points where he agreed with Mr Malema’s statement, but he did not agree with the entire statement, and specified the part he did agree with.
The Disaster Management Grant would help ease some areas, as the current team had worked flat out. The city was hoping that the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) would assist with this resource. He asked if the Deputy Minister could provide an explanation regarding the formula that determined if an area was a hotspot.
There was no discrimination in the distribution of food parcels. They were not reserved for South Africans only, but were available to all people who had been identified as indigent. The nutritional value of the food parcels was prioritised by the City, and the people who had received food parcels could attest to this.
The decline in revenue was a reality and credit control would be affected, as resources would dry up otherwise. The city made upfront payments to Eskom, Rand Water and other departments.
The City had lost the councillor for Ward 42, and a Member of the Mayoral Committee (MMC) and the Speaker were part of the funeral committee. On the day the funeral committee met, the MMC had worn a municipal top. However, on that day, the MMCs had also met to distribute food. The MMC had a small logo on her T-shirt, and the member of the committee that reported the MMC for wearing the T-shirt was intrusive, by looking down at the women’s breasts where the logo was positioned. Mr Masina said he had taken this matter up with ethics, as it had been created to stir up unnecessary tension. DA councillors had been given 1 500 food parcels to distribute, and whether they were wearing DA regalia was neither here nor there, because the approach was simply to provide food.
Mr Waters said that the picture taken of the councillor wearing ANC regalia while distributing food parcels had been taken by an official of the City of Ekurhuleni, and posted to Facebook. It had nothing to do with the DA councilor, as he had not been present when this occurred but had seen it on Facebook. He was not a pervert or sexual predator -- he was doing his job to expose the ANC for utilising food parcels as a political weapon.
The article where Mr Masina supported Mr Malema was titled, “Let the white economy collapse, says Malema.” Mr Masina had started his tweet by stating, “I fully agree with my friend on this one.” He could not backtrack and worm his way out of being exposed for causing racial division within the City of Ekurhuleni. The fact was that Mr Masina had fully supported his friend, Mr Malema, on this article. He had further taken a picture of the article and posted it with the tweet. It could not be said that Mr Masina supported only the point of nationalising the commanding heights of the economy. He had misled the Committee on this.
In the State of the City Address, as part of the city’s immediate contribution to curb the spread of COVID19 in the space, it resolved to use the emergency fund to procure the vaccine from Cuba. Thus, “resolve” gave the portrayal that this had already occurred. Furthermore, Mr Masina even named the vaccine, “Interferon Alfa-2b”. As for as the regulations were concerned, Mr Masina had spread fake news about the vaccine and the virus. He had given people a perception that the City of Ekurhuleni was going to get a vaccine. There was no vaccine, and the fact was that the statements made in the State of the City Address should have been checked and verified.
Mr Hoosen said that Mr Masina’s poverty relief measures were greatly supported by the Committee, and he commended him for it. However, the broader principle was that South Africa wanted to see that all households had food on the table. The Committee agreed that social distancing was impossible in informal settlements, and that the conditions were inhumane. The gap between rich and poor in South Africa was unacceptable, and the economy had to be redirected in a direction that would benefit all South Africans. In this regard, regardless of one's political affiliations, this was what everyone wanted to see. When Nelson Mandela was elected President, the country moved in the right direction and for a number of years, the country headed in that direction. Where the country had gone wrong, was when politicians made comments that divided the country on the basis of race. Mr Masina had the opportunity to clarify whether he agreed that the white economy must collapse, and from there the Committee could move on. Mr Hoosen said that he stood by his comment that the action of seeking to divide the country on the basis of race was an act done by children, and was therefore childish.
Mr Bergman said that it was important for Ekurhuleni to be given the formula of how it was determined if an area was a hotspot. In Cape Town, the city was testing and tracing the virus. When an individual had tested positive, the city tested the people around that person. This was how the hotspot areas in Cape Town were derived, which was different to other municipalities. Mr Masina was therefore correct in saying that there should be a standard method of determining if an area was a hotpot.
Mr Hadebe reiterated that everyone was titled to their opinion, but not entitled to their own facts. Mr Masina had clarified his stance on the matter, but it seems that the Committee was hell bent on arriving at its own facts. The clarity given must be taken as the facts. Childishness referred to teenage-like behaviour, like throwing tantrums and overall immaturity. To refer to an executive mayor of a metro as childish made him uncomfortable, and he believed the Members of the Committee would not want to be referred to in this manner. He agreed that Cuba would continue to be South Africa’s key progressive and strategic partner. He asked if the province had provided a reason it did not support Mr Masina’s proposal to obtain the drug used to treat COVID19 in other countries.
Mr K Ceza (EFF) asked what the state of readiness for schools reopening in Ekurhuleni was. How often would schools be disinfected? How much personal protective equipment (PPE) had been provided to schools, and was Mr Masina satisfied with this? What procurement measures had been followed for PPE? He asked for clarity on the evictions made in Ward 21, and on the unscheduled power-cuts in Ward 43 and 45. Ward 99 had had no water, which affected residents’ ability to wash their hands. In Ward 29, why were only ANC card carrying members were given food parcels? Why was the park behind Pick ’n Pay in Ward 21 unkempt?
Mr Masina said the matter regarding the councillor wearing ANC regalia was before the ethics committee. The matter would best be handled by following council protocols. The article attached in his tweet had a comment which specifically stated that he agreed only on the point of nationalising the commanding heights of the economy. Had he agreed with the article, he would have attached the article and not made that point of clarity. He believed that Mr Waters had a problem with him, as he had taken him to the Public Protector based on lies regarding the vaccine. The speech clarified that the City of Ekurhuleni was looking at all possible solutions that were in line with the law in curbing COVID19. This included a potential vaccine that may be developed in future, or an existing drug.
Mr Masina stated that the gap between rich and poor which Mr Hoosen had mentioned was what had driven him to tweeting about nationalising the commanding heights of the economy. Something had got to give, and the status quo could not persist.
The Province had referred Ekurhuleni’s request to procure the drug to the Gauteng Clinical Governance Advisory Committee, which was the technical advisory committee to the Head of Department and the Member of the Executive Committee (MEC). The current evidence on the drug Interferon Alfa-2b was experimental, and required additional research into the treatment of COVID19. The preliminary results had confirmed that Interferon Alfa-1a and 2b had been used in combination with other drugs in the trial. Research was required to determine the efficiency of the drug being used alone. The Ministerial Advisory Committee on the pharmaceutical management of COVID19 had been consulted, and it had been recommended that the drug should be used under an appropriate medical research protocol.
Mr Masina stated that Mr Ceza should consult with colleagues in the Committee of Basic Education, as school readiness was the competency of the Province. He asked that the service delivery questions be furnished to the office of the Executive Mayor, and it would be dealt with from there. The City’s infrastructure was ageing, and that was what was at play when dealing with service delivery.
Mr Hadebe asked Mr Masina to address the issue of food parcels being given to ANC card holders only. He asked if 1 500 food parcels had been given to each ward? If this was so, this was commendable, as only 30 food parcels had been given per ward in Khayelitsha.
The Chairperson said the presentation stipulated the operations of the food bank, and encouraged Members to refer to this. Oversight was needed from Members of the Committee that were in the Ekurhuleni area.
Mr Ceza stated that the questions Mr Hadebe had reiterated were the result of oversight and anoutcry from the constituencies. The issues were prevalent, and half-cooked information would not suffice.
Mr Masina said he did not intend to undermine Mr Ceza, but he did not have the statistics before him and would not want to mislead the Committee. Food had been distributed using churches and various organisations over and above the food distribution of the Department of Social Development. The Province was also distributing food across the municipality, and the reality on the ground was that the demand was huge. He could not give a direct answer. The ANC councillors had been used to identify the needs of the communities, and not necessarily to distribute the food parcels. The service delivery matters would be investigated and reported to the Committee.
Housing Development Petition
Mr Bergman presented a petition regarding a proposed housing development which members of the community had petitioned against, as there had been insufficient public consultation on the matter. The steering committee had managed to come to an agreement on the matter, and it had been agreed that soil would be turned on Monday.
Mr Masina said that consultations had been concluded, and an agreement was in place. The Department was getting ready to turn soil. The quality of the houses was in question, but he was glad that an agreement had been reached.
Illegal occupation of Department of Education property: Petition
Mr Bergman presented a petition regarding the illegal occupation of garages and buildings that belong to the Department of Education on stand 1/1244, No 42 Avenue in Alberton North. The petition had received over 2 000 signatures asking for intervention on the matter. The stand where people were illegally occupying buildings was next to a school. There had been incidents where bricks had been thrown at scholars, learners had been asked for money and had been injured by stepping on sharp objects. There were concerns that the school may pass on disease to the settlement, and vice versa. Prostitution, selling of drugs and an illegal shebeen had also emerged. There were no chemical toilets on this stand. The proposal was for this informal settlement to be moved for the benefit of the residents, as well as to protect the safety of the learners in the area.
Mr Masina stated that all informal settlements had been provided with chemical toilets, as far as he knew. He would investigate the matter of chemical toilets on the illegally occupied stand.
The Chairperson said that the District Development Model would assist with this matter. This would need to be championed by the Mr Masina and his team. Considering that the land in question belonged to the Department of Education, she suggested that it be invited to engage on the matter.
Mr Hadebe seconded this, and suggested that a timeframe be given for when the City would give progress on the matter. The Chairperson gave Mr Masina a two-week timeframe to provide feedback to the Committee in writing.
Electric Supply Petition
Mr Waters presented a petition which pertained to unplanned power outages in Boksburg and Germiston. The residents in the area had experienced numerous outages that lasted for days on end, with some cases lasting as long as five days. This had resulted in rotting food which cost residents thousands of Rands. The area of Wadeville was responsible for the bulk of employment in Ekurhuleni. The problematic electric supply resulted in production being halted, which affected productivity. Another concern was that Ekurhuleni was transgressing its licensing agreement with the National Energy Regulator of South Africa (NERSA). The City had failed to maintain standards across the metro.
Ms Michelle Clark, Ekurhuleni ward councillor, said that in November last year she had met with several businesses in Wadeville. It was found that the City had managed to deal with the effects of unplanned outages on bulk businesses, but small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) were still suffering. Wards 36, 39, 92, and 35 in Germiston had experienced unbelievable power outages of up to five days. People were under severe financial constraints, and the effects of power outages such as the loss of food was difficult at a time like this. She had been in contact with the City Manager, but hoped for greater intervention.
Mr Brink underscored the point that there seemed to be fragility with the electricity network in Ekurhuleni. There was a country wide problem with electricity infrastructure, but in Ekurhuleni it was affecting businesses severely. If the economic heartland was being affected, it was of serious concern and the NERSA licensing agreement had to be looked into. A strategic plan needed to be provided by the City as well.
Mr Mark Wilson, Head of Department: Energy, Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality, said that licence conditions were measured using NRS 048 and NRS 047, which was the national specification on the quality of supply and service of electricity. It was audited by the national regulator. Ekurhuleni’s performance was within the specifications, and the city was no worse than other cities in Gauteng. There were a few areas which experienced issues, as mentioned in the petition. Germiston was one of the biggest and oldest electrical networks in the country. Money had been spent to upgrade the network, as seen with the Germiston North sub-station, which was 90% complete. The Wadeville area had had new electrical wiring in the area, and about 9 000 meters would be replaced in the coming financial year, which begins in July. As recent as April 2020, cables had been replaced in Germiston to stabilise the situation in Wadeville and the surrounding areas.
The challenges in the areas mentioned occurred in the winter season. The outages were due to illegal connections and bypassing of meters, so when there was a cold spell there was an overload and power outages occurred. It was made worse as fuses were removed from mini sub-stations, causing the main sub-station to trip and a larger area to be affected.
Credit control could not be performed during April and May due to the lockdown. This had resulted in an upturn in illegal connections. As a temporary solution, rotational load shedding was being performed. In the medium-term, a meter bypass programme would be affected where bypass meters were removed, and protective structures would be put in place.
The fragility of the electrical supply network in Ekurhuleni was indeed true, as it was aged. However, in conjunction with national regulators, funding had been allocated to refurbish the network. Refurbishment refers to replacing old equipment, and not repairing it. This had resulted in the network’s age being reduced from 45 years to below 35 years, and the aim was to reach below 25 years. Germiston was the biggest issue, and the most money was being spent in this area. The bypass programme would be effected, and this would stabilise the issue.
In Kempton Park, the Glen Marais sub-station had been renewed. The Van Riebeeck Park sub-station had been completed and renewed. Early warning systems and closed circuit television (CCTV) had been installed.
Mr Brink said that many technical assurances had been given, but there had been 383 outages from July 2019 to February 2020 in Wadeville. When could this community expect the electricity supply to be stabilised?
Mr Waters said the reduction in revenue collection should continue for the next months -- how would this affect the budget of the electricity department? The schedule of repairs showed that if the electrical repairs that were supposed to be done in the Kempton Park area had been done, Glen Marais would not have gone without electricity for six days. The Spartan sub-station in Kempton Park fed electricity to many of the industrial areas which were linked to the Van Riebeeck Park sub-station. If the cables between the two substations had been repaired when they had broken on 31 July 2018, the Glen Marais area would have received electricity. He asked why the cable had not been fixed two years later.
Ms Clark asked the City to provide a progress report on repairs, the budget allocation and areas that would be upgraded, as Mr Wilson had mentioned, for the purpose of oversight.
Mr Hadebe said it was better to maintain rather than to repair. It was also better to repair than to replace. What was the City doing to communicate these matters to the community? If they were informed, the petitions would not have reached this level of government. Regular feedback would give the community a sense of comfort in knowing that something was being done.
Mr Wilson said that the 383 power outages in Wadeville were difficult to count, as they may have been relevant to just one house or one street. Wadeville was indeed a problem, and a lot of money had been injected into repairs. There would be a total renewal of the Wadeville sub-station, which would benefit the smaller businesses and residential areas around it. The reduction in revenue collection would not affect essential service delivery, such as electricity and water in operational and maintenance requirements. There were cuts and a slowdown in rolling out capital projects, but in terms of refurbishment, the funding was still in the budget.
The cable between the Spartan and Van Riebeeck Park sub-stations would be looked into. Cables usually did not go unrepaired. Some cables were difficult to protect, such as one that used to run through the wetlands of Germiston, resulting in it constantly being stolen. A new route had been made for this cable, and what remained was never repaired.
A progress report and programme would be made available to the Committee, with timeframes of repairs and refurbishments occurring in Germiston and Wadeville. Three new sub-stations were being designed for Germiston and in the coming year, contracts would be issued.
The Chairperson said that when the Committee was briefed on the issue of Glen Marais electrical supply in 2019, safety mechanisms had been in place to prevent and provide an early warning on cable theft. Had this been effective since its implementation? What had been the outcome of the community awareness programme on cable theft?
Mr Wilson said that the early detection of cable theft programme had been rolled out, and it would continue to be rolled out. The equipment was not cheap, so it had been rolled out in the hotspots. There had been a number of arrests and convictions for cable theft just days after the equipment was rolled out. When equipment was installed in one area, the hotspot moved, so a game of catch up was always being played. There had been a small reduction in cable theft, with two officials being arrested.
Meter bypassing was a huge issue, as this caused trips. The City was beginning to put meters in protective boxes, as well as conducting educational programmes informing residents on meter bypass. Communication on electrical outages had been a very big challenge. A person had been employed in the Communication Department to remedy this. A WhatsApp group had been created in areas to help communicate the issues as they happened.
Mr Masina commended his team for dealing with the electrical supply matter, as the electrical network was aged. The City was committed to improve the electrical and water supply, but the roll-out of interventions would be lengthy due to budget constraints, as it was an expensive endeavour. He asked Mr Waters to clarify which areas had not had electricity for six days.
Mr Waters said that areas affected by the Glen Marais sub-station fire in January had been left with no electricity for six days. This could have been mitigated if the cable between Spartan and Van Riebeeck Park sub-station had been repaired. The people affected had not received compensation from the City for the food they had to discard due to the electricity being out for six days.
Mr Masina said that Mr Waters was being disingenuous. The sub-station that had burnt down had since been replaced. Mr Wilson had explained that the situation had stabilised. Mr Waters had referred to incidents that had happened six to eight months ago, and had been resolved. The City expected to be held accountable for current matters. Mr Wilson would investigate the matter of the cable that had allegedly not being fixed between the Spartan and Van Riebeeck Park sub-stations. In Mr Waters’ constituency in the Western Cape, people were not compensated for food discarded due to power outages, so where did he think the money would come from in the City of Ekurhuleni?
The Chairperson said that the Glen Marais issue had been raised in December 2019, and progress had been made. It was therefore not part of the agenda, and current issues needed to be observed by the Committee. It had been agreed that progress had been made, and Mr Wilson had committed to investigate the cable between the sub-stations.
Mr Waters said he had not raised the issue of Glen Marais – it had been the Chairperson who had done so. He added that Mr Masina could compensate residents using the disaster fund, instead of buying fake COVID19 vaccines.
Mr Masina said that Mr Waters’ statement was unfortunate. He continuously attacked him.
Mr Mpumza said that Members had raised issues outside of the agenda and continuously attacked Mr Masina, which was intolerable.
The various parties expressed stern disapproval of the depiction of Ms Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, Minister of COGTA, as an ape on social media. There was a call for the perpetrator to face the full wrath of the law.
The meeting was adjourned.