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The number of households provided with dehumanising bucket toilets by 257 municipalities increased in 2020 to 47,130 from 42,434 the year before.
In delivering the non-financial census of municipalities for 2020 in Pretoria on Tuesday, statistician-general Risenga Maluleke said the Eastern Cape’s economic hub of Nelson Mandela Bay led the list of ten municipalities where bucket toilets are most prevalent with 12.8%, followed by Free State local municipalities Ngwathe and Matjhabeng with 12.3% and 10.1% respectively.
The census looked at aspects of service delivery pertaining to the provision of water, electricity, sanitation and employment in the local government sector, among other functions.
The number of households using the bucket-toilet system has been decreasing over the years. In 2016 there were 68,480 households provided with bucket toilets; this went down to 60,557 in 2017, 42,622 in 2018 and 42,434 in 2019.
A political hot potato
The continued use of bucket toilets is a political hot potato in the country, with the government failing to meet its eradication targets.
The National Treasury allocated R608m with a view to completing the bucket eradication programme by March 2019, among other targets.
Opposition political parties have often focused their election campaigns around completely eradicating the bucket-toilet system, saying a flushing toilet would help restore people’s dignity.
Failure to completely flush out the bucket system is indicative of the broader failures of local government, which is at the coalface of service delivery, but has been run into the ground due to maladministration, looting and corruption and a lack of skilled personnel.
This has led to many municipalities struggling to deliver basic services such as refuse collection, while others are struggling to pay staff salaries and employment benefits.
The Eastern Cape’s economic hub of Nelson Mandela Bay led the list of ten municipalities where bucket toilets are most prevalent, followed by Free State local municipalities Ngwathe and Matjhabeng.
In launching the 2020/2021 local government audit outcomes in Tshwane in June, auditor-general Tsakani Maluleke said only 41 (16%) of the country’s municipalities achieved unqualified audits, 100 (38%) achieved unqualified audits with findings, 78 (30%) qualified with findings, four (2%) adverse with findings and 25 (10%) achieved disclaimers — the worst possible audit outcome.
Maluleke said the number of clean municipal audits improved slightly from 32 to 41 during the 2020/2021 financial year, while 64% of municipalities incurred unauthorised expenditure totalling R20.45bn.
She said of the R20.45bn, R13.25bn was for non-cash items, which means that municipalities spent money for which councils had not provided in their approved budgets, or that the spending did not meet the conditions of a particular grant.
Of the 257 municipalities in the country, 193 were responsible for fruitless and wasteful expenditure amounting to R1.96bn during the period under review.
Municipalities and their entities were responsible for an estimated expenditure budget of R509bn in 2020/2021, according to the auditor-general.
Addressing the national conference of the SA Local Government Association (Salga) in March, President Cyril Ramaphosa implored mayors, councillors and government representatives to turn local government around, saying many had lost faith in its ability to meet their needs.
On Tuesday, Maluleke said the number of consumer units — an entity to which a service is delivered — that municipalities serviced increased in 2020 to 14.1-million from 13.5-million in 2019. Consumer units that received free basic water from municipalities decreased to 3.3-million from the 3.4-million recorded in 2019.
Maluleke said consumer units getting electricity from municipalities was 12.4-million in 2020, up from 12.1-million in 2019, and the number of indigent households increased from 3.3-million in 2019 to 3.5-million in 2020.
Making a killing
Municipalities also made a killing during the period under review, clocking over R100bn selling electricity in 2020, while the sale of water accounted for slightly over R20bn.
The statistician-general said 14.1-million consumer units received water in 2020, up from the 13.6-million of 2019.
“Of the 14.1-million, 3.4-million (24%) benefited from free basic water [6kl free basic water per household per month],” Maluleke said.
On electricity provision, he said 12.5-million consumer units received power supply in 2020, up from the 12.2-million achieved in the previous corresponding period.
Maluleke said of the 12.5-million, 2.4-million (representing 19%) benefited from free basic electricity of 50kWh per household per month.
He said 2.1-million indigent households benefited from indigent support on electricity.
At 33.7%, KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) led the list of provinces with the most households registered as indigent, followed by the Eastern Cape with 33%, Free State at 27.9%, Northern Cape at 21.4%, Western Cape at 17.1%, Gauteng at 5.3%, Limpopo at 11.7%, North West at 10.2% and Mpumalanga at 7.7%.
With SA battling one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, the local government sector employed 311,364 people in 2020, down from 333,412 in 2019. Of the 311,364, the country’s economic hub of Gauteng accounted for 97,238, followed by KZN with 56,596 and the Western Cape with 52,013.
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Published by Arena Holdings and distributed with the Financial Mail on the last Thursday of every month except December and January.