By Nosihle Shelembe
Pretoria – While many municipalities around the country are battling with various challenges – financial mismanagement being among the topmost – one small municipality in Gauteng is among those that are proving to be an inspiration to others..
The West Rand District Municipality is amongst the 33 percent of municipalities in Gauteng, which have achieved an unqualified audit opinion for the 2014/15 financial year.
In the latest in our series to highlight the work of municipalities, SAnews sits down with West Rand Executive Mayor Mpho Nawa.
Under his leadership, the municipality has achieved unqualified audits for the past five years, an achievement, he’s proud of, he says.
Nawa has been in local government for 11 years. He was elected mayor of the West Rand District Municipality last year and is currently overseeing the merger of Randfontein and Westonaria municipalities into a territory that also includes Mogale City and Merafong City.
“Outstanding governance has been ensured by the appointment of a regional audit committee, which conducts performance audits as well as financial audits,” he says, during an interview in his office last week.
For many years now, the mining sector has been the biggest contributor towards the economy of the West Rand Municipality, but with the industry experiencing a steady decline in recent years, the district is now repositioning itself to be a green economy.
Rich in land, which has a high agricultural potential, as well as favourable climatic conditions, Mayor Nawa says the district wants to take advantage of this and empower its citizens.
“The region is also diversifying its economy as it wants to be the food producer for Gauteng,” he says. This is not surprising, coming from a person who has his own garden where he grows vegetables and distributes to his own community.
In 2011, the mayor’s office adopted the Green IQ programme which is commitment to make the West Rand the greenest district in South Africa.
So far the municipality has planted about 50 000 trees in the district.
Passionate about issues of the environment and agriculture, Mayor Nawa is delighted about the establishments of Agri-parks in Bekkersdal, Merafong and Tarlton.
The programme which is led by the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform is aimed at revitalising the agriculture sector by increasing the participation of small holder farmers in agricultural activities.
Agri-parks to assist municipalities
Mayor Nawa says the establishment of Agriparks will assist the district in diversifying the economy which has been reliant on mining and would provide much needed jobs.
“In Bekkersdal, 20 tunnels, a packhouse and an administrative block have already been completed. In Merafong, 16 tunnels and a shade net have been completed and planting of seedlings is in progress,” he says.
He says the district has proposed to the Ministry of Higher Education, that one of the Further Education and Training Colleges in the district be converted into an agricultural college.
“We hope as we move forward, we can have our own fresh produce market,” Mayor Nawa says.
To ensure effective service delivery, the municipality has co-ordinated a project known as Ntirhisano, which involves setting up War Rooms across the district.
The programme was initiated by the Premier of Gauteng in 2015 and is championed by mayors across the province.
Mayor Nawa says the programme has allowed the municipality to address issues raised by the community quickly and it’s also bringing services closer to the people, through its outreach programme.
The West Rand District Municipality is co-ordinating the district technical team which includes 17 Gauteng government departments.
The municipality has exceeded the target set by the provincial department in raising awareness campaigns about HIV and AIDS, and TB.
He says over the last five years, a total of 3 093 800 people have been reached through the municipality’s Door to Door education on HIV and AIDS, TB and sexually transmitted infections.
As health is one of the priority areas for government, the municipality has also ensured the training of health practitioners who deal with the issuing of ARVs at local clinics.
“All 44 clinics in the region have been trained and authorised to issue ARVs and 18 of those clinics have pharmacy assistants. A total of 400 000 people are on ARVs since 2011,” says Mayor Nawa.
Dealing with crime
Not wanting to give criminals any space, the mayor says the municipality took a decision to install CCTV cameras in the Central Business Districts of Mogale City, Randfontein, Westonaria, Carletonville and Fochville.
As a result, up to 3 000 crime related incidents have been captured on camera and in some cases, arrests have been made.
Mayor Nawa says the district is currently paving the sidewalks and the entrances of Mohlakeng and Toekomsrus.
The project is funded by National Treasury through the Neighbourhood Development Partnership Grant (NDPG).
Furthermore, a road linking Rietvallei Proper and Rietvallei Ext 2 was completed in 2014.
Since 2011, the Energy Efficient Lighting Project has installed 1 073 street LED street lights and 29 high mast lights across the local municipalities of the district since 2011.
The mayor says he is pleased with his achievements but also notes that the task “to provide a better life for all continues.”
“I will not put down the weapons of the war on poverty, I will not exchange the tools of change for a life of complacency, and I will not ever turn my back on the people of the West Rand.
“I am ready to continue to fight for a better life for our people in whatever capacity I am called to act,” he says.