The importance of well-functioning municipalities has once again been placed in the spotlight over recent weeks as the practical difficulties resulting from Eskom’s loadshedding become evident.
Eskom continues to grapple with generation capacity due to the poor maintenance at many of their power stations even in circumstances where the economy is functioning at a low level. While any form of loadshedding impacts on the municipality’s own use of electricity in buildings, facilities and pump stations, it is the inability to operate sewer and water pump stations that is of most concern. Pump stations are required to regularly fill water reservoirs or to pump sewage along the network to the waste water treatment works. When two loadshedding periods regularly arise within a few hours of each other this places additional pressure to achieve these operations. While our municipality has the use of generators, we are not able to cover all of our 150 pump stations across the water and waste water networks.
The announcement last week by the President that independent power producers will be able to erect 100 MW of generating capacity without the need to obtain generating licences has opened up the market for private sector investors to invest in solar, wind or other forms of renewable energy. This additional generating capacity that can be created is to be welcomed and we look forward to any opportunities that become available for George once the precise details of the recent announcement become clear. If these investments can be fast-tracked, it is possible that there could already be relief after 2 to 3 years.
In addition to the electricity challenges, some municipalities continue to experience difficulties in the supply of water and treatment of sewage. By way of example, the City of Johannesburg is reported to face challenges within its electricity distribution network as well as with water. We have recently also noted that milk producer Clover has decided to relocate its factory operations from Lichtenburg in the North-West to Ethekwini as a result of poor service delivery. Recently the chicken producer, Astral has obtained a High Court order for the National Government to intervene in the affairs of Lekwa Municipality (Standerton) as the result of similar poor service delivery.
The above examples are illustrations of why we are placing so much focus on our infrastructure and service delivery.
We recognise the importance of maintaining and refurbishing infrastructure and increasing our water and sewer capacity. This will require substantial capital investment and astute funding of this expenditure to balance the budget with appropriate proportions of grants, debt and internally generated funding. Constant efforts are also being made to improve service standards.