Opposition parties, within the newly-established JB Marks Municipality comprising former Ventersdorp and Tlokwe municipalities, say the amalgamation of the two municipalities is facing serious challenges.
Since its announcement three years ago, the amalgamation has been met with resistance from some quarters of the communities, including political parties in the province.
The decision to amalgamate the two municipalities was taken by the then Minister of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Pravin Gordan.
The reasons given by the then minister was that the Ventersdorp Municipality was unable to perform its constitutional obligations, as it was not financially viable. That decision was met with resistance from some community members both at Ventersdorp and Potchefstroom, arguing that they were not sufficiently consulted.
However, the merger went ahead and was implemented fully after 2016 August local elections. This, however, seems to be facing serious financial challenges.
Democratic Alliance councillor, Advocate Jurie Moolman says, “At some stage, we had around R400 million as reserves during the former Tlokwe Municipality and the last time we heard, four, five months ago, it was at the region of R100 million. We are aware of huge challenges with regards to electricity accounts. Recently, we also heard through the media and not in council, unfortunately, that we are owing the water board in the region of R70 million these are huge amount of debts.”
Independent councillor, David Kham, says the worrying factor is that Potchefstroom residents are now subsidising Ventersdorp.
Kham says, “In Ventersdorp, we are continuing to spend the money that is collected from this side. I can tell you that there are serious constraints when it comes to our expenditure. I mean even service providers can stay for long without been paid. It is exactly as a result of that. The second issue which the municipality is facing severely is the dilapidated infrastructure of that old region now.”
JB Marks Mayoral Spokesperson, Victor Boqo, has dismissed all allegations that their municipality is in financial challenges following the merger.
“I can’t agree with those sentiments. Remember the reason by the then Minister of Local Government Pravin Gorhdan to amalgamate Tlokwe and Ventersdorp … some of the reasons were that Ventersdorp was not financially viable. So, indeed after this amalgamation, remember there were debts at the then Ventersdorp like in water and Eskom. So to date, we have been paying those debt as the municipality we cannot say we use of Tlokwe.”
Boqo has, however, acknowledged that the funds allocated for the processes of amalgamation has dried up and the municipality intends requesting for additional funding.
Meanwhile, the municipality is reported to be amongst those in the country, owing Eskom and Water board millions of rands.