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Mayor’s Newsletter for the week ending Friday 8 March 2024

Ald Leon van Wyk, Executive Mayor of George

On Friday, 1 March 2024 it was reported that Knysna Municipal Council had accepted the Western Cape Government’s diagnostic assessment and financial recovery support plan to address the deepening service delivery crisis in our neighbouring municipality.

This decision is the first step of the many that will need to be taken over the coming months and years. In all municipalities, the budget is delicately balanced between the collection of budgeted revenues and planned expenditure, often only leaving a surplus of 1% or less. This calls for responsible management by the administration and oversight by the council. In Knysna, it is not only a collapse of service delivery in respect of water, refuse and sewage services and under-collection of outstanding debtors. There is also a substantial bank overdraft along with outstanding creditors. The recovery process will be a long haul. Knysna is a case study for citizens to reflect on how the votes that they cast in the 2021 local government elections have contributed to the instability in the council and the administration. Councils need to practise good governance to ensure that municipalities are able to deliver the services that they are mandated to deliver.

The collapse of state capacity in Knysna has had direct knock-on effects on the lives of citizens and the economy. This also affects George and the region where the leadership and management of local authorities have been working hard to make improvements that will benefit communities and ethe economy.

During the past week, I have been involved in a series of engagements to address the challenges being experienced in the Province and the country. During the regular quarterly meeting where the premier meets with mayors and municipal managers, we were briefed on the ongoing energy crisis and the efforts to get additional megawatts of renewable energy being generated privately into the grid as soon as possible. We also reviewed the disaster management measures put in place to counter the 12-day electricity blackout across Central Karoo towns after grid pylons collapsed in a severe thunderstorm. Lessons learnt have also been noted. During the current summer season there was an alarming increase in the number of mountain and veld fires. During the fires in Overstrand, teams from George were sent to provide assistance.

During a workshop held in Cape Town, we were briefed on the importance of implementing successful international practices in our cities and towns. This reinforced the approach and work that is being undertaken in George. The maintenance and upgrade of infrastructure, whilst ensuring basic service provision are proven ingredients to attract investment and jobs. Employment is the key driver to improve the quality of life for our citizens. It is therefore important to create the linkages to ensure that entrepreneurs and economic stakeholders step forward to collaborate in moulding opportunities that will benefit our citizens. In addition, it is critical that measures are introduced to reduce crime. The sustainability of energy and water provision will require attention. The education and health systems require improvements along with practical measures to reduce levels of poverty.

Alderman Leon van Wyk
Executive Mayor of George