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In August 2023, ActionSA Western Cape Provincial Chairperson, Michelle Wasserman, appealed for provincial intervention into the state of the Knysna Local Municipality. This request stemmed from the financial crisis facing the municipality and the breakdown in service delivery.
ActionSA called upon the MEC of Local Government, Anton Bredell, to intervene in accordance with section 139 of the Constitution and implement the administration process. Unfortunately, despite the apparent crisis, the MEC merely acknowledged receipt of the letter without taking any further action. Consequently, the town's condition has continued to deteriorate at an alarming rate.
In the latest monthly budget statement presented before the Finance Portfolio on 21 November, the Mayor admitted that the commitments facing the municipality exceeded its cash reserves. This highlights the near complete abdication of responsibility, as there has been no improvement in addressing the municipality's finances.
Alarming is the fact that, despite previous warnings, service delivery has degraded to the extent that provincial intervention was necessary to remove waste from the waste transfer station. A mountain of decaying refuse had accumulated, posing significant health concerns and leading to an infestation of rats throughout the Central Business District (CBD). On 25 November, at the request and expense of the Province, George Municipality dispatched three 19-cube compactors to assist in waste removal.
Knysna is grappling with multiple infrastructure failures and collapses, including extensive water outages and the pumping of raw sewage into the Knysna Estuary. This has resulted in the N2 being regularly closed by protestors.
We are concerned that crime has also escalated, prompting a notice that the taxi rank in Central Knysna is at risk of being forfeited to the state due to unchecked drug dealing and illegal activities.
Cadre deployment persists unabated, and despite the High Court challenging the appointments of the Directors of Corporate Services, the Municipal Manager, and CFO, the incumbents continue to occupy their positions. This is despite not meeting the minimum legislative requirements, and they receive salaries at the top of the remuneration scale legislated for those positions.
MEC Bredell and his team only arrived in Knysna on 28 November 2023 to conduct an inspection of the state of the town and a press release was issued by his office confirming the serious challenges being faced by the municipality.
The MEC’s press release acknowledges the collapse of service delivery and announces the formulation of an emergency plan by provincial engineers. Additionally, a diagnostic plan will be prepared and presented to the council.
The Department of Environmental Affairs and Development Planning issued a pre-directive to the municipality, allowing 14 days to devise an action plan to address sewage pollution and ongoing raw sewage spillages.
ActionSA will closely monitor the situation, expressing concern that the Minister has not heeded our call to commence the process of placing the municipality under administration. While welcoming the provincial government’s involvement, we are concerned that it may be too little too late for the town that was once the crown jewel of the Garden Route.
Issued by ActionSA Knysna Constituency Chairperson, Julie Seton