Good morning. Molweni. Goeiemore.

It is my honour today, to deliver my first State of the Municipality Address as Executive Mayor of Kouga Municipality. 

This is a unique opportunity for us to collectively reflect on the year that passed and, more importantly, to outline the vision for the year ahead of us. 

I wish to address Council today not only as a politician or as an Executive Mayor, but, foremost, as a proud South African.   

I, therefore, dedicate this address to every South African in Kouga who, during this trying time in our country, endures various levels of distress daily, yet as is entrenched within our character, continues to hold dear to them, a passionate degree of hope and of a better tomorrow. 

We cannot, as a local municipality, neither reflect nor project, without considering the state of our beloved nation. 

I listened to the State of the Nation Address by President Cyril Ramaphosa on the 8 February 2024 and was, like many South Africans, concerned about how disconnected the contents of his speech were to the reality facing South Africans daily. 

The stark reality is, that our beloved country is on the brink of collapse. 

The true state of our nation

As a direct result of cadre deployment, politically connected individuals are placed in key positions in the public service without merit, which has facilitated gross levels of corruption leading to state collapse. 

The cost of living has subsequently spiralled out of control where 81% of households are skipping at least one meal a day, 12 million people go to bed hungry every night, 30% of children under the age of five are stunted in their development, and millions of hungry schoolchildren are unable to concentrate and learn.

According to the Eastern Cape Department of Health, 1 722 children under the age of five in this province were newly diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition between August 2022 and September 2023. Of these, 114 have sadly died.

Today, 50% of South Africans live below the poverty line.

South Africa’s income per capita has been falling for over a decade with unemployment at around 33%, and at an expanded definition, around 41%, the world’s highest.

The electricity crisis has shut down small businesses and has plunged more South Africans deeper into poverty.

As a local municipality, we are closer to the ordinary South African citizen and the socio-economic challenges that besiege us daily.

I want residents of Kouga to know that I understand the challenges that is faced every day, and despite the gruelling national climate, we have as a local municipality built a resilience second to none, with a community of residents that refuse to bow down. 

When I first took office in July last year, I embarked on a tour to every ward in the municipality, visiting every community and engaged with thousands of residents to intimately understand exactly what and how we need to continue to get things done. 

I was reminded that a quality education, an opportunity to find meaningful work, and access to quality basic services are the surest way to ensure that South Africans live a life of dignity.

I am immensely proud of the achievements we have made in the past year to do our bit, in ensuring that our residents maintain a life of dignity.  

You cannot have dignity within a dysfunctional Municipality

In Kouga Municipality, the Accounting Officer and I work hand in glove to ensure that our budget reflects the needs of our community guided by the Integrated Development Plan. 

Kouga Municipality, for the 22/23 financial year had an actual operating revenue of R1,286 billion. Of this, we managed to spend 94.66% of our capital projects budget and 100% of our Municipal Infrastructure Grant funding. 

Notable highlights include over R13 Million spent for resurfacing of 10km of gravel roads and over 4000m ² of potholes repaired and over R20 million for resealing roads creating more than 300 new jobs along the way. 

To alleviate the cost of living as best we can, we ensured that residential properties valued at R400 000 and less will not be required to pay property rates. The national norm is just R85 000. 

We doubled the pensioners rebate from R100 000 to R200 000 and increased our total indigent subsidy budget to R68 million, which equates to approximately R1367 per indigent household per month.

We reduced tariffs by 23.8% on property rates whose value has not increased by more than 30%.

And in November last year, to provide further relief to residents, we reduced water tariffs from part c to part b. 

Even so doing, while municipal debt to Eskom stands at a staggering R75.4 billion nationally, Kouga Municipality owes Eskom nothing.

I would like to commend our accounting officer and chief financial officer for not only enhancing the municipal revenue base, but for keeping costs as affordable as possible for the residents of Kouga. 

Congratulations also on your 10th consecutive unqualified audit. 

You cannot have dignity without access to water

It needs not reminding that last year Kouga Municipality was battling the worst drought we have faced in over a decade. 

Not only did we avoid day zero, but we used this as an opportunity to improve our water security better than it has ever been before. 

The year 2023 marked the completion of four groundbreaking water purification plants in Kouga. These plants are the largest in Africa to make use of this process for municipal supply.

As a result, where we previously relied on 70% of water supply from dams, we now only have a 35% reliance on it, while 65% of our water is now supplied from our underground water from fountains and boreholes.

Our innovative efforts toward ensuring a high standard of water quality were affirmed by being acknowledged as one of the best-performing water service authorities in the Eastern Cape – receiving an overall 64.59% in the latest Blue Drop assessment released by the Department of Water and Sanitation for the year 2022/2023.

The score was further supported by an excellent technical site assessment rating of 91% for the Jeffreys Bay Water Treatment Works. 

We had the privilege of having the Minister of Water and Sanitation, Mr. Senzo Mchunu visit this treatment works in August last year, who observed what is possible when funds are spent prudently. 

I encourage other local municipalities, who continue to battle with water supply, to work with us and our incredible team in finding solutions to this critical challenge. 

You cannot have dignity without ownership

We have made it our mission that no title deed should remain with the municipality or any government institution but must instead reside with the rightful owner. 

Last year Kouga Municipality issued over 1 100 title deeds to residents for their RDP houses across the region, a milestone for the municipality. 

We can be proud of being a catalyst for people’s self-determination and development.

This is in addition to the 3 056 title deeds issued since 2019 – some of the documents which dated back 20 years or more and had never been issued to their rightful owners.

You cannot have dignity without food on your table

While I am aware that alleviating food insecurity in Kouga Municipality is beyond our control, I am most pleased with our efforts to alleviate this burden in a meaningful way to those who need it most. 

Through a dedicated mayoral initiative and by sourcing necessary donations, Kouga Municipality has in just the past four months donated over five tons of fresh vegetables to over 30 local NGOs across the region. 

By supporting this critical sector in our community hundreds of residents can be assured of having a nutritious meal a day. 

I particularly want to recognize Xolani Woni from KwaNomzamo, who established his non-profit organisation, “Ikhaya Labakhaya” in March last year. 

Xolani distributes close to 300 meals to vulnerable residents on a weekly basis. 

His operation unfortunately came to a halt in December due to a lack of resources. Thanks to our initiative, Xolani is now back on his feet providing this critical service. 

Wenze kakuhle Xolani! May you continue to make a difference in our community. 

It is through the will and tenacity of our people, of South Africans, who ensures that despite all the wrong indicators going up in South Africa, there is hope. 

As the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu said, and I quote: “Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness”. 

Let me state this with no uncertainty, there is hope. 

There is hope for South Africa and there is clear hope for Kouga Municipality.

This is not a fairytale, as the plans for this municipality for this very year are real. 

While Kouga Municipality remains the best run Municipality in the Eastern Cape, we are not blinded by the challenges in front of us. 

 While we remain a beacon of hope in the province, we are far from where we envision ourselves to be.

 Allow me, therefore, to touch on some of the ongoing priorities for this year. 

 Streamlining customer care

Kouga Municipality is committed to bringing open, accessible, transparent, and accountable government to all residents across the Kouga region. For this reason, I launched the first Thursday initiative.

On every first Thursday on the month, residents can meet with myself and my mayoral committee, the municipal manager, and directors without having to make any appointment. 

We recommence with this on 7 March 2024 between 12:00 and 17:00 outside municipal offices in Jeffreys Bay and will thereafter visit every town again. 

 True leadership is servanthood, and we must continue to improve our ability to do just that. 

 I am also excited about launching our first ever Customer Service Charter, which could possibly be the first of its kind in the province. 

 This document, which will be distributed broadly, is essentially a commitment to residents detailing the services we offer, the level to which they ought to be rendered and the turnaround time we commit ourselves toward. 

 We are here to serve, and residents need to hold us accountable. 

 I wish to acknowledge the myriad of challenges we have experienced with accounts in the past few months. 

 I am pleased to announce that incorrect billing will soon be an issue of the past as we are currently rolling out our smart water reading initiative. 

 We have already begun piloting this innovative intervention which we hope will be fully implemented within the next couple of months.

 Roads

The extent to which people can use the opportunities available is dependent on how easily they are able to move around their towns, their cities and their country.

 When individuals cannot move around freely and easily, their access to economic opportunities is impaired.

 Over many years, our road infrastructure has faced neglect, reaching a point where fixing potholes is no longer an adequate solution. 

 This can be attributed to years of negligence dating back to prior August 2016, when the municipality inherited a backlog of R500 million in road maintenance from the previous term. Heavy rainfall and increased population (3.22% per annum) have exacerbated the road conditions, intensifying the need for prompt action.

 Recognising this, the municipality is committed to reforming its approach to pave the way for tangible and lasting progress.

 On 12 September 2023 we hosted a first of its kind “Rescue our Roads” stakeholder meeting. This was attended by engineers, contractors, and stakeholders from all over the country. 

 Innovative technologies including new methods and materials were discussed. 

 A month later, the Kouga Municipality Council passed a resolution to secure external funding amounting to R200 million for the vital task of rehabilitating 150km of roads in the next 15 months. 

 We are presently negotiating with several financial institutions to secure these funds to appoint the most capable contractors to do the job effectively. 

 In addition to this, we have recently appointed a new manager for roads and stormwater who will lead this process going forward. 

 Renewable energy

I believe that municipalities have the ability to choose how they wish to approach local governance. If you’re proactive, you focus on preparing. If you’re reactive, you focus on repairing. 

 While repairs to critical infrastructure will remain a priority throughout the year, Kouga Municipality will proactively work toward mitigating the devasting effects of load shedding on our residents. 

 I am pleased to announce that an environmental impact assessment for the construction of a 20MW solar plant outside Humansdorp has been completed and approved.  

We are currently in the process of conducting a thorough financial feasibility study to distinguish costing and various financing models. 

This green energy project will reduce our reliance from Eskom, cut costs on energy supply, create jobs, keep local businesses energised and will ultimately increase economic development exponentially, particularly within the targeted Humansdorp area/

This initiative includes a 160KW solar project to take the Jeffreys Bay Municipality Building off the grid and a 1MW solar project geared toward powering our critical infrastructure such as our Waste Water Treatment Works.

ISUP

Kouga Municipality will be forking out more than R42 million to upgrade the vandalised waste water treatment plant in KwaNomzamo, Humansdorp.

The 18-month project, designed to enhance the treatment capacity of the plant, will also clear obstacles holding back the progress of a 400-unit housing project here.

The increased treatment capacity of 2.5ML per day and efficiency will provide the necessary infrastructure support for new residential areas, contributing to the municipality’s efforts to address housing demands in a rapidly growing community.

Informal settlements across the Kouga region are set to be upgraded at a combined cost of more than R68 million over the next 12 months. 

The implementation of this project will see nine informal communities with over 3 000 households be provided with decent basic services, such as water, electricity, sanitation, and waste management.

This will help to address the ongoing dependence of informal areas on the bucket system – which we are committed to removing entirely. 

There are many priorities for Kouga Municipality, which include our local economic development strategy, town planning, ensuring we have clean beaches, and increasing tourism. 

I, however, want Council and residents to know today, our four key priorities:

  1. We have to fix our roads.
  2. We have to reduce our reliance on Eskom.
  3. We have to make sure that residents are served quickly and effectively.
  4. We have to upgrade our Waste Water Treatment Works.

Conclusion

Despite the national climate in South Africa now, I still have immense hope. Hope that we will get out of this decline we have fallen into. Hope that as South Africans we are able to rise above stats and figures and thrive. 

That is also why I believe that Kouga has what it takes. We can be a blueprint of what a flourishing South Africa can look like. A place of hope, innovation, where families can live, work, and play safely.

Allow me to end with a quote that I have read in council numerous times. 

Theodore Rooseveldt said: “It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Fellow South Africans, may we continue to dare greatly – for our country depends on it. 

Thank you.