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Parties agree to spend R178.8 million grant on Bay's water security, EFF wanted land bought

By Afikile Lugunya - May 8, 2018
Parties agree to spend R178.8 million grant on Bay's water security, EFF wanted land bought

The official opposition party in the Nelson Mandela Bay, the African National Congress (ANC) and the ruling Democratic Alliance (DA) led coalition on Tuesday put aside their differences and agreed to ensure a R178.8 million municipal grant does not return to National Treasury at the end of the financial year in June.

The meeting came after parties failed to agree on what to do with the money last week.

Councillors passed a motion to spend the R178.8 million, which the municipality received from Treasury as an Urban Settlement Development Grant (USDG) for good performance in terms of spending trends.

The DA-led coalition moved that some of the money be used to pay for the work already in progress at the Nooitgedagt/Coega Low-Level Scheme, amongst other things, in order to secure the Bay's water supply.

However, the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF), through Cllr Zilindile Vena, argued that the Nooitgedagt/Coega Low-Level Scheme is already in progress, so that money should rather be used to purchase land in Seaview and Moregrove so that it can be allocated to residents.

While several other councillors agreed with Vena and trying to convince the ANC, the latter seemed to have already decided to see the motion through.

“We can only agree with the DA if they say that let's expropriate that land without compensation and we know that they will not do that, they are clear in their programme," said Vena.

“We have a windfall, which we didn’t budget for and the guidelines are clearly saying that part of what you must do is to acquire land.

“The money can be committed before the 30th, I appeal to let us not put a strain on our next financial year lets at least release the funds for the land."

The United Democratic Movement's (UDM), Mongameli Bobani, also wanted to know about two R15 million invoices that he said were for the Nooitgedagt/Coega Low-Level Scheme.

He argued that when the invoices arrived, “obviously there was nothing about the USDG grant money” that Councilors now wanted to use towards the project.

“When the people started working [on the project] there was no grant. Where is the money that was going to be used to pay these people when the NMB got into a contract [with them],” he asked.

The African Christian Democratic Party (ACDP), represented by Lance Grootboom, and the Congress of the People (COPE), represented by Siyasanga Sijadu, agreed to carry the motion through.

Meanwhile, the African Independent Congress' (AIC), Tshonono  Buyeye, agreed with the UDM.

"There is no work to be put in the Nooitgedagt. This money is to be used to pay off debts that were already made, so the issue has to be cleared because there is no clear answer to this. If this thing is cleared then we will support the motion, we just need clarity,” he described.

The Patriotic Alliance's (PA), Marlon Daniels, while supporting the DA-led motion, also wanted to know where the money that was supposed to pay for the project, before the Metro got this particular grant, was.

Mkhuseli Mtsila, of the United Front (UF), said; “We believe that the issue of Lorraine can be taken out of the Nooitgedagt Project because that project is already funded."

Retief Odendaal, who is the Chairperson of Budget & Treasury Committee, explained that Nelson Mandela Bay was in a water crisis that needed to be dealt with first, to avoid Day Zero like what occurred in Cape Town.

He said that the EFF's proposal for the money to be used to buy land would need a formal process before the money could be allocated.

“The Executive Director of human settlement, Ms Nolwandle Gqiba, submitted documents yesterday which entailed a process of plan," Odendaal explained.

“It said that the land hasn’t been valued; negotiations haven’t started yet; Council hasn’t given approval - and even if those were already done, she would have stick to time-frames and the earliest she could be able to transfer funds would be by the 30th of July."

In the end, with the DA-led coalition and the ANC carrying the majority of votes at Council, the motion to spend the money on the Nooitgedagt/Coega Low-Level Scheme passed.

Councillors also agreed to demolish the vacant double-storey houses in Motherwell NU29 along with improving stormwater systems in Wards 13, 16, 28, 36, 46, and 49; the refurbishment of electricity transformers in Ward 7; cable replacement in all wards etc.