SOCA 2018 – Mayor insists the metro is in good shape

Seen during the State of the City Address at the KwaThema Stadium are Speaker of council, Alderman Patricia Kumalo and the Ekurhuleni Executive Mayor Mzwandile Masina.

Ekurhuleni’s mayor Mzwandile Masina delivered his second State of the City Address (SOCA) on March 27 at the KwaThema Stadium.

Residents from all over Ekurhuleni came out in their numbers to hear the mayor. Unlike last year, this year’s proceedings went smoothly, with no clashes between supporters.

Masina shed light on his Ten-Point Plan to revitalise the metro’s economy, which would help the metro create employment, attract investment and bring about transformation.

Masina said they now have an approved aerotropolis master plan that would capitalise on Ekurhuleni’s strategic location and pave the way to it becoming an “airport city”.

“Ekurhuleni anticipates higher levels of investments, especially within aerotropolis corridors,” said Masina.

“Our approach is to maximise capabilities in smart and advanced manufacturing, aviation and aerospace and logistics and transportation industries to drive competitiveness and radical socio-economic development and transformation that will ultimately benefit all the people of Ekurhuleni.

“We hosted the investment conference in June 2017 and continue to intensify our efforts to unlock the metro’s R300-billion pipeline investments.

“In addition, we are pleased to announce the following projects that resulted in a R7.2-b investment into the metro: Prasa Gibela, M&T Development, Riverfield, Green Reef, Glen Gory, OR Tambo Airport Jewellery Precinct and Tambo Springs Inland Port.”

Speaking about the review by the National Treasury on the metro’s financial health, Masina said the metro is financially stable and moving in the right direction. He emphasised the metro’s operational capital budget as well as cash balances.

“We have increased our capital expenditure from R4.1-b to R5.1-b and we will continue ramping it up – the target is to reach R10-b by 2021.

“Our capital expenditure was sitting at 87 per cent when we took over the administration. I’m happy to report that in the 2016/17 financial year we recorded 91.4 per cent.

“Looking back on our performance, I’m confident that 2017/18 will be even better.

“The grant expenditure was at 82 per cent and is currently at 97 per cent, meaning we are not returning large sums of money to the National Treasury meant for infrastructure, unlike our neighbouring metros, as reported by the media recently.”

Masina said that in their efforts to fight fraud and corruption, they have suspended seven senior officials, among them two heads of department.

  • Unemployment

Masina said the national economy has improved slightly over the last few quarters at an average of 1.3 per cent. This was mainly due to the high performance of sectors such as agriculture, mining and manufacturing.

With regards to unemployment, he said the national average is 26.7 per cent, which is extremely high compared to other developing countries.

“At the same time, Ekurhuleni recorded the highest (98 000) new jobs over the past year. If this trend continues, we are likely to push back frontiers of poverty and underdevelopment in Ekurhuleni. We are experiencing job losses as a result of factory closures and a general decline in industrial activities.”

  • Bursaries

Since the metro’s decision to increase bursary funds from R10-million to R100-m, the metro has assisted 1 757 students in their pursuit of academic qualification during 2017/18.

Masina said they will continue making bursaries available for first-year students. The aim is to take the bursary fund to about R250-m by the time they leave office, in order to continue complementing the free education that was announced by the government, starting this year.

  • Mega projects

Masina said the metro has over 11 000 title deeds and is in the process of handing these over to their rightful owners.

“We committed to 59 000 and we are well on target to achieve this number. Already, over 4 333 sites have been serviced and allocated to their rightful owners.

“The metro has launched three of the six mega projects with provincial government, which will help us meet the 100 000 housing units that we committed through our manifesto as the ANC in Ekurhuleni.

“We will soon launch the remaining three mega projects just to make sure there is dust all over Ekurhuleni.”

  • Basic services

Masina said people residing in informal settlements deserve and need a proper provision of basic services, such as water, lighting, sanitation, refuse removal and access roads.

“It is for this reason that we have been rolling out the re-blocking programme, which is a process of reconfiguring the current layout of informal settlements and reorganising the ground plane in such a manner as to optimally utilise space to promote the health, safety and well-being of households, with a particular focus on promoting accelerated service delivery to informal settlements.

“The roll-out of street lights that assists in building safer communities has also increased.”

According to Masina, they have installed street lights in many areas, from Boksburg to Vosloorus, Brakpan to Tembisa, Alberton to KwaThema, and Katlehong to Thokoza, among others.

  • Illegal connections

“At the same time, we have reduced electricity losses to 11.9 per cent. This is a positive trend as we cut down on illegal electricity connections that have been feeding off the revenue of the city.

“On the side of the community, the lives of innocent people who may have been endangered by exposed power lines are now going to be saved.”

Masina said they have budgeted R30-m for the refurbishment of the rental stock that includes the flats and hostels.

He said they have provided chemical toilets at an improved ratio per family in informal settlements and have 50 reservoirs creating additional storage.

“Twenty pump stations are under construction, as is the decommissioning of 50 redundant pump stations.”

Speaking about water security, he said last year they added 20 megalitres of water storage capacity in the metro.

  • Roads

The metro has added 61 kilometres of new roads to the existing road network.

“We have further conceptualised, and are now setting in motion, a number of catalytic infrastructure projects in roads improvement and construction.

“The projects were planned for a three-year Medium Term Financial and Revenue Framework starting from the 2016/17 financial year.

“These projects are Vlakplats, aka Nyoni Park Road, widening, doubling of Barry Marais and widening of Monument and Pretoria roads in Kempton Park and Benoni.

“In addition, the intergovernmental initiative between provincial government and Ekurhuleni has yielded good results towards the implementation of the Aerotropolis Road Network Master Plan.

“This will be displayed by the construction of PWV15, a link between the R21 and N12 in 2019.”

The project is aimed at deviating and alleviating traffic from the congested Gillooly’s interchange from the R21 direct to the N3 in Heidelberg. Sod-turning for the PWV15 is scheduled for the second quarter of 2018/19.

“We plan to construct an additional 30 kilometres of new roads to add to the existing road network. A huge portion of this will be directed towards the eastern region, which has a higher backlog than the other regions.

“We further undertake to do maintenance work on more than 3 000 kilometres. This includes rehabilitation and the patching of potholes. We now have a comprehensive plan to rehabilitate more than 30 kilometres of formal gravel roads and continue to improve access to informal settlement.

  • Golf Challenge

Masina said they have taken a decision to cancel the SA Golf Challenge after the contract expires.

“We will use the savings to launch our Mega Event, which will be inclusive and help reposition the metro. The programme of the renaming of our major on-ramp and off-ramps will soon be undertaken in consultation with communities.

“We have also started a process of renaming the Germiston Theatre after our late icon Dumi Masilela.

“We honour his artistic talent and we hope this gesture will go a long way in healing the family and the industry at large.

“We plan to open this theatre at the end of May,” Masina said.

  AUTHOR
Ntombikayise Sibeko

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