Three wards will be up for grabs at Emfuleni Local Municipality, in Gauteng, when South Africans vote in Wednesday’s by-elections. A total of 96 wards will be contested in 56 municipalities across the country.
The by-elections were postponed in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Emfuleni is the only municipality currently under administration in Gauteng due to years of financial mismanagement, fruitless and wasteful expenditure which has crippled service delivery. Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on CoGTA says the municipality remains dysfunctional, despite a lengthy intervention by the provincial government.
The municipality has for years been beset with multiple problems such as corruption, misuse of municipal funds, which has led to it being placed under administration. One of the biggest problems has been raw sewage flowing into the Vaal River in the municipality.
The army was deployed to help rehabilitate the polluted Vaal River system. Following its recent engagements with officials there, Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on CoGTA is not convinced the provincial government intervention has improved the situation. However, administrator Willy Bhila says they’re making progress.
“The municipality is functional in that all government structures as prescribed by the systems act are functional, the administration is functional, the council is sitting, as well as the Section 80 committees are sitting. It is therefore not entirely and absolutely correct that the municipality is dysfunctional, despite challenges faced by the municipality. The upcoming by-elections will be conducted without any hinges, as there is political stability, though with challenges.”
With just days before citizens vote in the by-elections, political parties are on the ground canvassing for votes, with wards 21, 43 and 16 up for grabs. The DA is only contesting Ward 16, which is its stronghold. The party has however accused the ANC in the area of encouraging informal settlers to flood the area, saying this is an attempt to steal the election in Ward 16.
DA regional chair in the Vaal, Dennis Ryder, says: “We found that with the latest registration weekend, that was added, there was an additional thousand people or so, that registered to vote in this ward, we tried to go door to door, with our campaign, we found that the majority of these shacks are actually empty, people have erected shacks and registered to vote with those addresses, and yet there’s no one living in the addresses that they’ve given. So it’s kind of a way of trying to steal a by-election, it looks like people have been encouraged to come and register here and trying to take away the power from people who should be voting in this area.”
The ANC in the area has in turn accused the DA of failing to deliver services to people.
“People came because they did not have a place to stay, they were staying in other people’s yards, paying rent which they could not even afford – those are facts, those people are unemployed, we walked around you saw the people that are staying here walking around the streets. As an African person, being a mom, not having my own place, staying in my mom’s house, how does that make me feel. So the fact is that the DA was supposed to deliver 3 500 houses. They did not do that, go check your stats, go into the IDP, you’ll see that,” says Maphela Ramokgopa, the ANC’s branch coordinator in the region.
One woman, who lives at the newly-established Ramaphosa informal settlement, which will be one of the main battlegrounds, says she’s happy to have a place to call home.
“We are ready to vote for our councillor. We have found a home here.”
Residents will have another opportunity to vote for a political party they believe will improve their lives in Wednesday’s polls.
Three wards up for grabs at Mfuleni in upcoming by-elections:
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