Municipality struggles, but officials go to France for ‘opportunities’

Henry

The DA is extremely suspicious that the speaker and deputy mayor of the Theewaterskloof municipality in the Western Cape is traveling to France this week for an “official state visit”.

This while the Springboks will compete against New Zealand in the World Cup final in this country on Saturday.

“If the official visits are an excuse to attend the World Cup rugby tournament, the management of a municipality like Theewaterskloof – where services are crumbling under their leadership – should be ashamed of themselves,” says Isaac Sileku, the DA’s provincial spokesperson on local government. .

The DA had before it a letter in which the municipal manager asks permission from the department of international relations and cooperation (Dirco) for the speaker, Derrick Appel, and deputy mayor, John Michels, to visit Britain and France.

It is outlined in the letter that the officials will first go to England to meet with the Leicester Tigers rugby club about “sports development programs and partnerships”.

Afterwards, they will “pay a courtesy visit to the embassies in England and France” and hold talks with the relevant officials to discuss trade and investment.

However, the DA says the PA/ANC/GOOD coalition must immediately expand on the visit and who exactly will pay for it.

‘Out of pocket’

The municipality hit back at the DA and said that this party was “blindly firing shots while the municipal officials are chasing opportunities in France”.

Although Mary Liebenberg, mayor of the municipality, did not confirm in so many words that Appel and Michels will attend the final, she stated unequivocally that the municipality “did not pay for their expenses or send them in any way”.

“The speaker and deputy mayor have decided that, while they are in France, they will visit embassies and potential partners on their own to exploit opportunities for Theewaterskloof and the people of this municipal area,” she says.

According to Liebenberg, the municipal manager only addressed the letter to Dirco so that the speaker and the deputy mayor have diplomatic support when they engage in discussions with international officials.

“The support will strengthen their efforts to negotiate on behalf of a state body in South Africa, that is to say, the Theewaterskloof local municipality,” she says.

“The municipality is grateful for the speaker and deputy mayor’s willingness to negotiate, from their own pocket, partnership agreements between Theewaterskloof and French municipalities.”

DA ‘not innocent’

Liebenberg went on to lash out against the DA and said that Sileku is not innocent when it comes to the state of affairs at the municipality.

“The coalition government inherited a municipality with enormous challenges regarding the spending of state money,” she says.

“In 2021, the debt collection percentage of the municipality tumbled to alarmingly low levels, causing the municipality to pay millions of rands to the national government.”

According to Liebenberg, the former mayor, Christelle Vosloo, argued that there are great inequalities between municipalities under DA control in the Western Cape. This means that municipalities like Overstrand have a budget of more than R1.3 billion to provide services to its 140 000 residents, while Theewaterskloof gets less than R1 billion to meet the needs of its 300 000 residents.

“Vosloo and Sileku, who is the former deputy mayor of this municipality, knew about this and failed to deal with it with workable and sustainable solutions that would solve the service delivery inequality between the people of Overstrand and Theewaterskloof,” she says.

“They did nothing to convince the provincial government to facilitate development opportunities in Theewaterskloof like what was done for Mossel Bay and Overstrand.”

Liebenberg says it is now her task to unlock opportunities with internal departments that have been left leaderless for five years.

“The key task of the coalition is to introduce good management practices that have been weakened by people like Isaac Sileku.”

Liebenberg says the demise of the municipality is partly the reason why the DA did not win the previous municipal election.