An atmosphere mingled with excitement and uncertainty filled the air at the Farmers Hall on Thursday evening, April 11.
The time has come for Newcastle Mayor Dr Ntuthuko Mahlaba to give his State of the Town Address.
“We meet you today just a day after we commemorated the passing of Chris Hani, our freedom fighter, on April 10, 1993. This is a reminder our freedom was not for free, some of our people died fighting for this freedom.”
Elaborating, Mayor Mahlaba encourages people to remember, through their conduct and deeds, Hani’s death was not in vain.
“Let’s serve our people with a clear aim of uplifting them without personal gain. As we commemorate Chris Hani, let his death and commemoration speak to our conscience as leaders to do good for the people at all cost, let it be inspired to bring material change to our people.”
Delivering his speech, Cllr Dr Mahlaba says the municipality will be working towards its Vision 2035 Developmental Agenda.
“Do Newcastillians envision and confine themselves with negativities which will soon be a thing of the past, or do they see a metropolitan in the making and the new development trajectory?”
Over the last decade, Cllr Dr Mahlaba says Newcastle has slowed down development and economic growth due to an array of reasons. “We are now reactivating development through piloting and catalysing growth engines such as the Equarand Mixed Use node (the vacant property between Newcastle Mall and the Office Park).”
This will focus on big business and developers of private schools, shopping complexes and hospitals developing the land and promoting economic development.
Furthermore, Cllr Dr Mahlaba says the Newcastle Municipality is in the advanced stages of securing funding for the feasibility study to establish a full-time institution of higher learning in town, a university of technology or a university. This he feels will assist develop the economy and job creations.
What about the financial situation of Newcastle?
While admitting Newcastle Municipality is facing financial constraints, Cllr Dr Mahlaba says it was not bankrupt.
Cllr Dr Mahlaba says a number of contributing factors led the municipality to its current financial status.
This involves a low average payment factor of 15% in Newcastle East, as well as an unfunded budget which resulted in our municipality funding unbudgeted projects.
Currently, steps are being taken to correct and bring about financial stability.
“The municipality has established an in-house credit control unit. This will ensure the credit control processes are aligned with the council’s objectives to collect debt in Newcastle East and to reduce collecting costs. To this effect, I have instructed BTO that municipal employees who are also owing to the municipality, must be recovered directly from their salaries before it’s even paid out to their bank accounts.”
The municipality is also currently rolling out an incentive scheme to individuals and businesses to instil a culture of payment of services, while dealing with arrear debt. As a result of the initiative, the collection revenue has increased from 75% to 82%.
Cllr Dr Mahlaba says the Human Resources Department has also been instructed to work with BTO to curb employee costs by reducing and controlling their overtime.
What lays in store for the upcoming year?
The municipality has built and budgeted for a number of houses in the
2019/2020 financial year. The Development planning and Human Settlement current projects include:
Khathide project – 1988 houses/unit which stands at an expenditure of R168 810 255.30.
Charlestown project – currently under planning and it’s expected expenditure stands at R53 717 255.26.
Siyahlahla-la project – 556 houses/units with an expenditure of R117 161 020.25.
Madadeni H39 project – Planning, construction stage and internal services with an expenditure of R49 256 881.31.
KwaMathukuza project – 1385 units with an expenditure of R103 214 410
Fairleigh Flats – 48 units with an expenditure of R4 784 481.40
Suryaville Flats – 72 units with an expenditure of R 7 471 532.30.
There is also the planned Siyahlala-la housing project which is planned for the 2019/2020 year which is set to cost R20 million for 170 houses.
The electricity tariff will increase by provisionally 13.07% subject to the NERSA guidelines on municipal tariffs and the application for the tariff increase is to be submitted by the municipality to NERSA.
Bulk electricity purchases will be increasing to 15% as per NERSA’s Eskom tariff, subject to final guidelines on municipal bulk tariff.
With potholes proving to be a bane to many a motorist’s life, Cllr Dr Mahlaba says R7 million will be allocated to resealing roads in residential areas within Newcastle, while R3 million will go towards the resurfacing of roads in the CBD. A further R3.5 million will also go towards both Madadeni and oSizweni.
A staggering R9 million will also be earmarked for pressure management, for water pipes within Newcastle. While R7.8 million will go towards oSizweni and Newcastle.
With high hopes for the upcoming future, Cllr Dr Mahlaba is also determined to combat fraud and corruption to ensure Newcastle’s residents and the municipality does not have to endure further challenges.
Does Newcastle have much to look forward to in the upcoming year? Do you feel Newcastle is set to experience a positive change? Share your views with us in the comment section below.