Sakeliga welcomes and supports two promising initiatives in Ditsobotla

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Sakeliga welcomes and supports two promising initiatives to restore order in the collapsed municipality of Ditsobotla.

Ditsobotla is one of the most dysfunctional municipalities in the country and, in the words of the Northwest Provincial Legislature, it is a town “run by gangsterism.”

Ditsobotla Dienstevereniging (Ditsobotla Services Association)

The first initiative is the establishment of the Ditsobotla Dienstevereniging – a not-for-profit organisation set up by local businesses and communities with assistance from Sakeliga and in parallel to Sakeliga’s ongoing litigation for new constitutional precedents in Ditsobotla. Its purpose is to counter service delivery failures.

The Dienstevereniging is preparing to collect revenue from businesses and other rate payers in Ditsobotla, keep proper financial account, and negotiate and contract with service providers, Eskom and various levels of government for service delivery and the maintenance of critical shared infrastructure.

It is important to understand that municipal failure in Ditsobotla is all-encompassing. Many businesses have not received utility and other bills from the municipality in more than a year, the municipal offices are shut, and critical infrastructure is collapsing. Interventions by provincial and national governments have borne no fruit. Unless businesses and organised communities take the lead to re-establish order themselves, the vacuum of governance and administration will be filled by gangsters.

Urgent legal proceedings

The second initiative is urgent legal proceedings by the Democratic Alliance and the Ditsobotla Dienstevereniging to force Eskom to restore power to the town.

Following a recent electricity outage, Eskom now appears to refuse to reconnect power to the town until the Ditsobotla Local Municipality pays its overdue electricity bill with Eskom. However, as established in the Resilient judgment in December 2020, following Sakeliga’s participation in that court case, it is illegal for Eskom to use a town’s businesses and residents as a bargaining chip to extract payment from a municipality. Since both Eskom and a municipality are state entities, they are obliged to resolve their disputes according to processes prescribed in the Intergovernmental Relations Framework Act. They are not allowed to penalise third parties, such as would be the case if Eskom were to disconnect business and residents indiscriminately even when they have paid their bills.

Sakeliga’s legal team is in contact with those of the Democratic Alliance and the Dienstevereniging, offering our input on the matter. We look forward to another successful application of the Resilient legal precedent, one that has kept lights on and saved billions of rand for businesses and communities in dozens of towns across the country.

Sakeliga’s strategy for municipal reform and economic stability

Sakeliga’s support to the above initiatives form part of our continuing work to establish legal precedents and good practice on dealing with municipal failure and to assist with alternative mechanisms for service delivery.

Bringing stability and prosperity back to local economies and communities is crucial to avoiding a cascading destabilisation, by which local collapse eventually leads to unmanageable pressure on metropolitan areas. Given its advanced degree of collapse, Sakeliga considers Ditsobotla a promising case for developing answers that could scale to other municipalities.

We express our appreciation to business organisations Agri Northwest and the Lichtenburg Chamber of Commerce, with which we have had fruitful collaboration. Agri Northwest continues to play a leading role in co-ordinating businesses in Ditsobotla to improve the business environment despite one of the most serious cases of state failure in the country.

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