New mayor of Emfuleni municipality mayor ‘up to the task’

Reading Time: 4 minutes

The new executive mayor of the Emfuleni Local Municipality on the Vaal, Jacob Khawe, faces a daunting challenge of rescuing the embattled municipality.

He takes over the reins at a time when Emfuleni is struggling to pay Rand Water more than R370 million for bulk water supply.

Some residents are refusing to pay for services because they say they don’t work, while others, especially in the historic townships of Evaton and Shapeville, are still waiting for homes and tarred roads.

Khawe will also have to work hard to rebuild Emfuleni’s image which has been damaged by multiple scandals under the leadership of resigned Mayor Simon Mofokeng.

Jacob Khawe claims to be a man of action.

In just under a week in office, he’s already secured enough funds from the equitable share sourced from the Gauteng government to start paying-off Emfuleni’s debts.

The former Gauteng Member of the Provincial Legislature says the first thing he did was to sign a deal with Rand Water, which was threatening to drop water pressure to 30% resulting in communities not having reliable access to water.

“R150 million; signed a deal with Rand Water … made a commitment. ‘I’m paying you on the 11th of December. The rest of the debt, put it in the two years’ period so that every month I should be paying about R11 million, plus the current account.’ I made that commitment. Next week I’m dealing with Eskom. I also want to do a settlement arrangement.”

But one of his biggest challenges will be to convince Emfuleni residents to pay for services including water and electricity – a culture which continued even under the leadership of then Mayor Simon Mofokeng.

He says, “Some of our communities are saying ‘deliver first and we’ll pay later,’ and I’m saying, ‘all of us, we take a responsibility. As I change the billing system and get it right, as I improve on water supply, and I continuously collect waste, pay.’ So let’s not say you do this and I’ll do this. Let’s do it at the same time. So it’s going to take time to change the culture of non-payment.”

Like his counterpart in the City of Johannesburg , Khawe says he will also be embarking on a campaign to clean Emfuleni and is appealing to residents to join him every second Thursday of the month.

“Where we have illegal dumping we are going to convert that into parks and start the beautification. Ok, I’m still young, but when I was younger than this, during school holidays, we would clean and have parks where we would know that we are going to have a Christmas party. Today, it’s no longer happening and I want to bring back that culture – a gathering point for communities. And they must say to municipalities, ‘help us; we need tools; we need support’.”

Khawe is aware of the reputational damage suffered by Emfuleni due to the numerous scandals involving former mayor Simon Mofokeng.

He resigned under a cloud of allegations of sexually grooming a 14-year-old.

Khawe says he will continue to champion for women and children’s rights, as he has always done, and continue to be an example of what men should be.

He has also asked for 120 days to assess the situation in his municipality, but believes that changes will be seen long before that deadline has expired, he says.

“Accountability is not a favour. Accountability is a must, so for me if I fail on accountability and communications, it’s completely a failure of leadership.”

The Democratic Alliance’s Kingsol Chabalala, whose constituency is Emfuleni, has worked with Khawe as members of the Gauteng Legislature, says, “Not another recycled mayor from the ANC, because the ANC has been changing mayors in Emfuleni like underwear. Even if Jacob Kahwe has the capabilities, the problem is that he’s from the ANC. The rot that is brought by the ANC is deeper. It cannot take one individual to fix the mess.”

The Freedom Front Plus’s Philip van Staden, who also served with Khawe in the Gauteng Legislatures Roads and Transport Committee, says, “Jacob Khawe is a very good person but we are afraid if he is going to be a mayor of Emfuleni that he will do the same there. But we hope, as Freedom Front Plus, that he will not do what the ANC leadership in Gauteng tells him to do, but rather what the residents of Emfuleni need to be done.”