Unbearable sadness for families as Khutsong Cemetery disappears into a sinkhole

This week, the Democratic Alliance (DA) in Merafong conducted an oversight inspection at the cemetery in Khutsong, Merafong City after residents alerted us to sinkhole formation. After the heavy rains over the weekend, these photos clearly show just how much gravesites have already recessed into the ground The situation is causing deep pain and suffering in communities whose loved ones are buried here.

We are deeply concerned that without immediate intervention, families will not be able to safeguard the remains of their family members. Just being present at the site, is posing danger as sinkhole formation is unpredictable and may cause innocent bystanders to be injured.

See the photos here and here.

Broken and fallen-over gravestones are littered everywhere, shattering the legacies of the persons they represent.

We have escalated the situation formally to the municipality and have been given assurances by the responsible manager that action will be taken. Khutsong has a historic sinkhole problem. Even though this area has been declared a disaster and more than a hundred million rands have been allocated to recovery, residents are still suffering loss and damage daily. The situation at this cemetery is adding insult to injury for this community.

The DA will be monitoring this situation closely, and we will provide feedback to the affected families. If you are concerned about a loved one who is buried here, please give us your details, so that we can help you act. Visit the following link and leave your details.

Cable thieves in Merafong may never get caught- Here’s Why

The crime wave is continuing unabated in Merafong despite police in the area being aware that the community is in the grip of a crime spree. Since Sunday several more instances of cable theft have occurred in various parts of Merafong like Losberg Avenue, Baards and Tafelberg Street in Carletonville. This is very concerning as residents are left without electricity for weeks on end before the cables are replaced and now to add to their woes the community also has to endure load-shedding. Residents all over Merafong are continuing to suffer in the dark, without hot water, without security, and without power and lights.

During an IDP workshop earlier this week, DA councillors asked questions regarding the scourge of cable theft, including the number of cases reported to SAPS so far, and the progress made in investigations.

During this workshop it emerged that:

• Municipal officials have not reported any of these cable theft cases to the SAPS, so no case numbers exist. Officials lament the time and administrative burden of reporting a case. It often requires whole mornings to be spent at the SAPS and officials cannot spare the time.
• If no case is reported, and no case number exists, there is no mandate for the SAPS to investigate these cases. No investigations, no arrests, no convictions.
• In the absence of a case number, Merafong is unable to institute an insurance claim. In effect, residents are paying twice for each cable theft. Once, by proxy, for the insurance premium, and then a second time because the cable, if replaced, cannot be claimed from insurance, but will be paid for out of municipal coffers.
• Local SAPS, including the station commander, cannot be unaware of these cases either. All of the incidents are reported on a community safety WhatsApp group, which include SAPS leaders, ward councillors and CPF members.

Unfortunately, this vicious circle is being enabled in part by the management systems of the SAPS. Station Commanders are caught in a classic catch-22 situation- spiralling case numbers may lead to more resources in the medium term, but it also makes the station look bad in terms of crime prevention. SAPS officials are therefore constantly tempted to under-report to avoid a negative reaction from the provincial management.

After seeing our previous statement, one SAPS official reacted angrily, accusing the DA of lying and unlawfully leaking information from a CPF meeting and threatening to stop collaborating on the CPF platform. This is a very worrying development as residents rely on CPFs to keep safe.

It is very important to the DA in Merafong that there is a strong and healthy relationship among community members, councillors, police and CPFs. However, the residents cannot suffer and pay the ultimate price because “systems” keep our officials free from accountability.

Last night a large group of thieves attempted to steal the last piece of cable still connected to the Bloukrans sub-station in Carletonville. Collaboration between community members, private security firms and the police foiled the attempt, for now. But they will be back.

See pictures here, here, here and here

Should this crime spree continue, many livelihoods will be put on the line, adding to the ever-increasing rate of unemployment in the province.

I will ask formal written questions in the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL) to determine each cable theft case number, the status of the investigation, and arrest and conviction rates. We are not trying to berate and belittle any officials in the media. If it’s a system problem, it can be fixed. We are working towards a safe environment for all of Merafong.

Anyone sharing this interest is welcome to assist. Residents of Merafong are urged to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious behaviour to the police and their local CPF groups without fail. Let’s work together to keep Merafong safe.

Merafong communities live in fear as crime increases exponentially

Residents of the Merafong Municipality on the far west rand of Gauteng are suffering severe losses to life and property as crime surges. Earlier this week, DA ward councillors met with senior SAPS officials in collaboration with the local CPF in Carletonville

SAPS confirmed the shocking reality that crime levels in Merafong are at their highest level ever:

• Merafong is now officially on the SAPS “Red Dot” list for the highest crime activity
• SAPS resources are so dangerously overcommitted that they have to respond to crimes in the order of severity. This implies that there are so many serious crimes such as murder in Merafong, that house robberies and cable theft cannot be attended to in time. Murder rates are spiking, especially in areas such as Blyvoor
• In Khutsong Ext 5 and Welverdiend a new modus operandi is at work: residents are highjacked and a ransom of R50 000 is extracted from their families. These brazen criminals are willing to return their kidnap victim for R30 000 but will only release the vehicle upon payment of the full ransom amount.
• Residential robberies are especially high on Wednesdays, Fridays and weekends
• Theft of motor vehicles spikes on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays
• Stock theft is through the roof. Of the nearly 2000 cases reported over the last 24months, only 28 convictions were secured
• Theft of municipal infrastructure, especially cables, is now a daily reality leaving residents without power for weeks on end.

See pictures here, here, here and here

See video here

While the police are checking scrap metal shops once a week for stolen cables, a stronger intervention and more visible police presence are required to clamp down on crime in the area. SAPS is calling on residents to become reservists as they cannot face the battle alone.

The crime crisis is also being enabled by the Merafong Municipality. Severely cash-strapped and riddled with supply chain problems, the grass is not being cut, streetlights are not working, and power outages are common in all areas. Municipal officials are acting out in frustration by attacking ward councillors for highlighting problems in their wards on social media.

Community WhatsApp groups have become the platforms of choice for reporting crime, as it proves more successful than trying to contact SAPS. This has led to an unfortunate situation where residents turn on one another and on the ward councillors in disgusting displays of anonymous flaming. Ward councillors in especially Fochville (Ward14, 21) and Carletonville/Oberholzer (wards 16,17,18 28) are under constant siege from community members. While opposition councillors do their best to report complaints and extract accountability from officials, the Mayor and Executive Council refuse to accept their culpability for the situation and have not been seen by the community in months.

For a long time now, the DA has been calling for the establishment of specialised rural policing units to help clamp down on crime in areas that are far from police stations.

The DA in Merafong will also be taking the following steps to stand with Merafong residents as we, as a community, are in a fight for our very survival:

• We will be engaging the SAPS, the Municipality, the Gauteng Provincial Legislature, and the MEC for Community Safety in Gauteng at every available opportunity to create maximum awareness of our situation, and to forge solutions for the way forward.
• We will be engaging our communities in Merafong in various ways including oversight and public engagement sessions to work out a community-driven plan of action.


Former Merafong Mayor rewarded with deployment to Gauteng Legislature, while residents continue to suffer

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng notes with deep concern the deployment of the disgraced former ANC Mayor of Merafong, Sara Madinge Letsie, to the Gauteng Provincial Legislature (GPL).

Letsie was complicit in the illegal R50 million investment with VBS Mutual Bank, which will never be recovered.

The swearing-in of Letsie as a member of the GPL for the ANC is just another case of cadre deployment despite her not looking after the best interests of our ratepayers.

Letsie was ousted as Merafong Mayor by her own caucus on 1 April 2021 and replaced by acting Mayor Mogomotsi Sello. Since then, Merafong ratepayers have been short-changed as Letsie did not make any meaningful contribution in Council or work with residents to improve their lives.

It is clear that the ANC-led government in this province is only looking after their own interests and not that of the public at large.

Service delivery in Merafong has all but collapsed and instead of bringing those officials responsible to book, they are instead deployed to another position within government.

If Letsie’s track record and the work ethic she displayed in Merafong is anything to go by, the GPL will have gained nothing but another cadre who is not fit for purpose.

It is clear that the residents, not only of Merafong, but of Gauteng, in general, are in desperate need of a change in government. A government that will put their needs first and not their own.

Where the DA governs, we ensure that we do so in a transparent manner and make sure that every rand spent is done so in the interest of our people.

Local Government Elections are coming up! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

Merafong Municipality admits they cannot deliver basic services without the labour participation of residents

The Merafong City Local Municipality has inadvertently admitted to the public that they are unable to render basic services to the residents of the Municipality without the active labour participation of the residents.

An official advert issued by the ANC-led Municipality, calls on all residents in Wards 17 and 18 to take part in implementing a service delivery programme, that includes street light maintenance, pothole patching, grass cutting, and clearing of illegal dumping, among other activities.

To call on residents to assist in the physical provision of municipal services, of which they already pay for, is an admission by the Municipality that they have failed in their constitutional obligations of delivering basic services to the residents.

It now seems that the only way forward for the Municipality, is that residents offer their free labour.

This would not be the first time that residents found themselves doing the work themselves. Residents of Merafong, in collaboration with Democratic Alliance councillors have already started fixing their community, by filling in potholes, cutting grass, and cleaning streets. See pictures here, here and here.

The ANC has only woken up now, realising it is an election year, and that they are at great risk of losing power, now that residents have shown the Municipality that they are no longer needed.

The work of Merafong residents is a lesson for all failing Municipalities; should you abandon the residents and leave them with little to no service delivery, they will eventually abandon you and find their own way to make their community better.

Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

Merafong Mayor unlawfully replaced with MMC who is allegedly supported by MECs Lesufi and Maile

Note to Editors: Please find a soundbite by Councillor Devin Nieuwenhuizen in English here and Afrikaans here

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng notes the unlawful removal of the Merafong Local Municipality Mayor, Maphefo Mogale-Letsie, in the Council yesterday.

Instead of tabling a motion of no confidence and putting it on the meeting agenda, the Council Speaker and ANC Chief Whip during the meeting conspired by making an unannounced proposal for the removal of the Mayor that was subsequently supported by the ANC council majority.

Mogale-Letsie was then replaced by the current MMC for Infrastructure Development, Mogomotso Sello, who is allegedly supported by MEC for Education, Panyaza Lesufi and MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Lebogang Maile.

The change in mayorship will have no effect for the resident of Merafong, who have for the past few months been taking service delivery matters into their own hands out of desperation. The new Mayor will have nothing new to offer the residents, as he is simply the same rotten apple as his predecessor.

The Council also removed the acting Municipal Manager, Lerato Peu, who was replaced with Siyamthemba Mdletshe, another clear-cut cadre deployment exercise. These changes are a blatant demonstration of ANC factional battles vying for power.

Since 2015, the DA has been asking for the removal of the Mayor. Since then, the situation has become more dire, with the Municipality sitting with less than R1000 in the bank on some days. It only makes one more suspicious that the ANC decides now to remove a compromised Mayor in unlawful and hasty fashion.

With R658 million owed to Eskom, a monthly municipal income of around 51%, and 17 000 untouched illegal connections, the municipality is only able to make payments to Eskom, Rand Water, and staff salaries, with service delivery rolled out on a rotational basis.

The new ANC faction taking charge of Merafong will be very disappointed to find the municipal coffers empty, as their own colleagues and predecessors have done a tremendous job leeching the municipality dry.

Local Government Elections are coming up in 2021! Visit check.da.org.za to check your voter registration status.

Merafong Mayor appoints niece as Acting Municipal Manager, councillors claim

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng has learnt that the Mayor of Merafong, Maphefo Mogale-Letsie has now appointed her niece, Lerato Peu as the acting Municipal Manager (MM).

Allegations of irregular appointment practices and nepotism are rife amongst staff and councillors as the Acting MM is apparently unknown in governance circles

The appointment, if verified, suggests that the Mayor is in dire need of loyal cadres and is prepared to ignore any regulated appointment practices in order to protect her own interests and patronage networks.

This is just another defiant move by the Mayor, who has asked by the ANC to step down in August for her involvement in the illegal investment of R50 million with VBS. This money that was illegally invested with VBS under her watch will probably never be recovered.

In order to verify and substantiate the serious concerns of Merafong staff and residents, I will be submitting written questions to the MEC to get details of the relationship between the Mayor and the acting MM, exactly what transpired during the selection procedure and if any rules were circumvented, and if Ms Peu possesses the legislated qualifications required to perform the tasks of an MM.

Merafong without Municipal Manager and CFO, but Mayor hangs on

The leadership crisis in Merafong escalated sharply this week as acting Municipal Manager Albie Niewoudt worked his last day on the 31 of August, before retiring.

The Council meeting was called to address the vacancy collapsed in chaos. Disgruntled community members occupied the council chamber and the virtual component of the meeting was so poorly managed that the Speaker abandoned the meeting.

The situation is now that there is no municipal manager duly appointed by Council, no permanent CFO (Thys Wienekus was recently arrested over the VBS saga) and a Mayor who was told to step down by the ANC, but is clinging to power.

The DA is deeply concerned that this anarchy within the administration will lead to unprecedented looting and escalating corruption, as basic checks and balances are absent. The DA is aware that the Municipal Public Accounts Committee is dysfunctional and poorly prepared to stop irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

With Council meetings unable to quorate, there is now no proper oversight on behalf of the people of Merafong and the remaining members of the executive will be able to carry on without being held accountable.

The DA has already called on the ANC to remove the Mayor from their PR list and inform the IEC accordingly, a call they have thus far ignored in the same vein as a call from President Ramaphosa that implicated members step down from their leadership roles.

We stand with all the residents of Merafong who are currently experiencing a total collapse of service delivery and have therefore laid criminal charges against the Mayor.

The actions of the ANC in Merafong makes a mockery of the calls of both the President and Premier Makhura that corruption must be rooted out at all costs.

It is now 24 days that the Mayor is in defiance of her party’s wishes and counting…



Merafong Mayor still in office, despite ANC calling on her to step down

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is deeply concerned that the Mayor for Merafong, Maphefo Mogale Letsie, has still not stepped down.

This despite the ANC asking the Merafong Mayor and the Mayor of West Rand to step down for their involvement in the illegal investment of R50 million with VBS.

Instead, Mayor Letsie told councillors that she was asked to resign and not instructed to do so and feels that it is her right to refuse.

The R50 million that was illegally invested with VBS under her watch will probably never be recovered.

The fact that Mayor Letsie has refused to step down shows that the ANC structures including the integrity commission along with the PEC are toothless and are unable to root out cadres who facilitate corruption.

In addition, this also has implications for President Cyril Ramaphosa whose seven page appeal to his party, shows that it is more talk and no action.

Furthermore, it is also concerning that the media and the public is under the impression that Mayor Letsie has indeed stepped down and this perception needs to be rectified.

The DA is therefore calling on the ANC to remove her from its Proportional Representative (PR) list in Merafong and to inform the IEC that she is no longer on their candidate list.

Merafong Local Municipality adopts 2020/2021 budget with tariff, salary increases despite negative impact of Covid-19 pandemic

The Democratic Alliance (DA) in Gauteng is disappointed to note that the Merafong Local Municipality has gone ahead and adopted a budget for the 2020/2021 financial year.

The DA in Merafong has consistently called on Council to postpone all increases until the next financial year in order to provide some relief to residents while the economy recovers from the pandemic response.

The virtual Council meeting during which the budget was tabled was chaotic as speaking times were not permitted and it is questionable as to whether a quorum was met which renders the outcomes of this meeting invalid.

In addition, in spite of numerous written responses from residents opposing the budget, the municipality has also gone ahead with tariff increases even though it is lower than initially proposed and has also adopted the proposed salary increases for the new financial year.

This is extremely concerning as the municipality has an unfunded mandate and clearly does not care about the impact the Covid-19 pandemic is having on the residents of Merafong.

Now is not the time to milk residents for more money. It is a time to be responsive to the economic realities that face rural economies in Gauteng and listen to the plight of residents.

The adoption of this budget comes as the Auditor General, Kimi Makwetu released the annual municipal audit findings which indicates that irregular expenditure is up by R7 billion. This shows a shocking lack of accountability.

Merafong can take steps to get its house in order to curb illegal connections, water and electricity losses and focus on the basics of service delivery. By pushing for tariff increases that are unrealistic and unaffordable many more businesses will be forced to shut their doors, enabling a vicious death spiral for rural communities.

The DA will continue to put pressure on the MEC for COGTA, Lebogang Maile to ensure that Merafong Local Municipality gets it house in order. The ovid-19 pandemic cannot be used as an excuse to push through a budget that did not follow the proper processes.