Not so Great Kei, as municipal workers haven't been paid since April
Workers at the Great Kei Local Municipality in the Eastern Cape are facing eviction and repossessions as their bosses haven't paid salaries for months
When Xolani Hatata died last month, his wife could barely afford to bury him because she could not cash out the state-employed traffic cop’s policies. They had lapsed when he failed to pay the installments.
But the missed payments were not Hatata’s fault.
He could not pay the installments because he – like many municipal workers at the Great Kei Local Municipality in the Eastern Cape – last received their salaries in April.
Pumla Ndolose, who is also employed by the municipality, based in Komga, said she struggled to bury her husband. The couple only married in December.“We even asked the municipality to release his salary or at least mine so that we can bury him, but they could not help us. This bankruptcy at this municipality has hit me hard. Besides losing my husband, I am receiving threatening phone calls from creditors,” said Ndolose.
“We had to ask the family to club together for money so that my husband can be buried.”
The municipal workers have faced countless troubles due to the non-payment of salaries. Some have had their leases cancelled by landlords, and banks have threatened to repossess their cars.
Many employees have also failed to report for duty, as they do not have the cash to get to and front work.
Employee Khangelani Mpe, a father of two, said he was struggling to pay school fees and he had to take his children to his relatives.
“The bank has phoned me about my house bond and my children are struggling because I have no money to support them. This is something that we never budgeted for and has left us with bad credit record,” he said.A senior manager at the municipality, who would not be named, said she had been struggling with her bank as it wanted to repossesses her car.
“This is a third month without our salaries and I am being told to either lose my vehicle or pay up. The municipality is just pushing us into debt,” said the employee.
Another employee said her landlord had told her that a new tenant was waiting to occupy the flat she’s renting in Komga.
“That alone put a strain on me because I am not from here [Komga]. The landlord has a right to do that and I am not in a position to negotiate with him; I don’t have money. I’ve lost my car already,” she said.
The Great Kei municipality has failed to respond to questions sent, but a municipality shop steward from the South African Municipality Workers Union (Samwu), Luthando Juju, said they’ve been asking the municipality to make plans.
He said they had told workers not to report to work.
“We’ve warned the municipality about what is going to happen and they ignored us. We told them to spend sparingly. Our employees have stopped going to work and that will cripple services,” he said.Juju said they couldn’t work without pay.
“For me it’s been more than six months without pay, and I know mine was politically-motivated. In May, employees did not receive their salaries, in June it was the same and in July it’s going to be the same. Government must merge us with the Buffalo City Metro otherwise, in a few months’ time, this municipality will be finished,” he said.
Eastern Cape Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs spokesperson Mamkeli Ngam said they were doing their best to save the ailing municipality.
“Our MEC, Fikile Xasa, has sent senior managers to work with the municipalities who are struggling. We’ve sent senior officials to find the problems and come up with solutions,” said Ngam.
The scenario playing out at Great Kei is not unique.
The Queenstown-based Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality lost its fleet due to debt owed to service providers. There, 44 vehicles were auctioned off in May, while 27 more are expected to be auctioned by the end of this month.
Another council, Matjhabeng in Welkom, in the Free State, was saved from a similar fate as the municipality intervened on the very day their vehicles were due to be auctioned after they failed to settle their debt to a service provider. The Sunday Times reported that the municipality owed more than R12-million.