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With Christmas only a few days away, I trust that all are in a festive mood and are experiencing the blessings of having time with our families and celebrating the big religious and festive days in the spirit they are intended to be.

2016 was a very difficult year for many especially for those who suffered from losing their jobs and loved ones. For the Municipality it was also a challenging year with many setbacks in our attempts to provide services to all.  We give thanks to the community of Emalahleni for the confidence they have shown in the Council, for the patience and understanding when various problems arose.

Amongst these problems we as community were hard hit by the downward turn in the economy, the drought as well as increased vandalism, crime and especially cable theft. We experienced increased levels of tampering with electricity which resulted in untimely death of a number of people. These issues impacted on our ability to service our ESKOM account and once again we are being faced with escalating debt which can only be resolved should we work together. Although internal stability in the municipality has led to improved service levels, many problems with systems and record keeping still existed and despite making significant progress with resolving these, from an audit perspective, we are still not where we want to be. The appointment of a new Chief Financial Officer during July is already making an impact on this troubled area and I believe we can look with confidence to the next Audit.

Recently the level of intolerance, personalised attacks and defamation reached unprecedented levels in our city, often diverting the focus away from service delivery. I can only hope and pray that we will as a community and Municipality be able to overcome these problems and work jointly towards long term sustainable solutions to the challenges facing us.

The year has had many positives as well which are often overlooked when we focus on problems. These include the successful and peaceful local government elections, the opening of the package plant which is already providing us with top quality water, investment in close to R200 million of bulk infrastructure, the opening of the satellite office for licencing, the formalisation of various areas and the stabilisation of our electricity supply which held out well despite unprecedented high demands over Winter.

The Customer Centre has finally been completed and by January the Executive Mayor will be opening this long overdue facility which will improve our ability to provide our customers with quality services. The tenders for replacement of the bridge at Blanceville as well as a ring-road which will take strain from the KwaGuqa interchange are in the process of being finalised. A further R44 million will also be spend in the next few months on improved road networks. With assistance from the private sector an additional 20 000 sq meters of potholes will be patched in the next two months. The re-fencing of the Nature Reserve has commenced. The increase of the package plant from 5 ML to 20 ML has started and this will further bolster our available water capacity. Further work at Phola and Clewer will see that area’s dependence on the purification works in Witbank being reduced and water assurance provided. With assistance from the District Municipality and Provincial Government investments in infrastructure to ensure that sufficient bulk services are available and informal settlements relocated and formalised we foresee that close to 18 000 households will be receiving services in the short to medium term.

However, during January we will be facing a serious challenge to reach a new arrangements with ESKOM under the threat of having our bulk supply disrupted. Our efforts at this stage through new meters, increased credit control and community awareness are starting to pay dividends but with a R400 million account to be serviced, a special effort is needed. We are still experiencing very obstructive and negative responses from those who have been utilising electricity without paying. Service delivery is only possible when all contribute and the electricity account is not only the Municipality’s problem.

During October we held a first prayer day for the municipality, for rain and the economy as well as our Grade 12 learners. We are grateful for our pastors for taking our hands during these times. The rain which fell during November and December surpassed all projections and I am grateful that today the Witbank Dam has risen from 39% to 74%. Although we are not out of the woods yet, the situation has improved and now we are holding our breath for the results of the matric exams.

I want to thank the Executive Mayor and all political leaders and councillors, the directors and management and especially our staff and community, for their guidance, patience, cooperation and hard work during the past year. As management we are looking forward to the new-year and believe that we will continue to move forward in restoring the dignity of our city. .

Merry Christmas, on behalf of management. Sincere thanks for your commitment, we wish you and your family a heart-warming relaxing fantastic Christmas holidays.

Municipal Manager

T.J Van Vuuren