MAYOR Phindile Faxi’s imbizo with ward 9 residents at Jauka Hall last Tuesday was characterised by highly mixed emotions, with some community members leaving in the middle of the meeting.
Faxi and municipal officials met with Ward 9 residents to give feedback about the municipality’s achievements and failures for the 2017/18 financial year.
Right at the outset, residents questioned the absence of directors.
A community member who identified himself as Bonani asked if they would not find themselves in a situation where some of their questions could not be answered due to the absence of relevant directors.
Municipal manager Rolly Dumezweni attempted to explain that it was the mayor’s imbizo, not directors. Some residents did not respond well to Dumezweni’s excuse.
Bonani was of the view that directors were deliberately not present. “In all the other wards you (municipal officials) went to, you came with your directors. Why not here at Ward 9?” he said.
There was sharp disagreement among the people present, with some wanting the meeting to proceed while others saw it as in vain without directors from relevant departments. It took an official’s assurance that any question raised would be answered for the meeting to continue.
In the feedback given by officials, it appeared little had been accomplished, while other projects were in process or pending. Infrastructure deputy director Onke Sopela admitted that the toilets project was unfinished.
Patching of roads was mentioned as something done, even though it raised many questions, with some residents claiming that only ward councillors’ routes were patched.
Sopela confirmed that a project to build 120 additional houses in Nemato had been approved at Bhisho. He said the project was in pre-planning phase and that a land survey process had been the cause of delay.
He further mentioned that RDP houses already built which had been having flooding problems were included in the budget for renovation.
As the processes of the aforementioned projects take more time than anticipated, resident Mfundiso Ntabeni suggested that they should be given a timeframe for any project.
“When we met here last year we asked you to give us a report with figures showing how much money you spent in each project, but we do not see that now,” he said.
When Faxi stood to speak, he started by attempting to clear his name about several issues. There was a divided response from the audience, with some people yelling at him while others shouted at those howling at the mayor.
“I want to start to with this 43 Air School thing,” Faxi said. “I have been hearing about it here and there but I want to address it now.” He said the air school licence had expired which could have been the cause of a shutdown. He added that fencing was also not up to standard. He further mentioned that if the air school closed, locals who worked there were going to be unemployed.
In his efforts to avoid the possibility of a shutdown, Faxi mentioned that he phoned Public Works Minister Thulasi Nxesi to intervene and resolve the issue. In their discussion for a solution the possibility was raised of private airlines landing in Port Alfred – something that would lead to job opportunities.
Faxi’s explanation did not go down well with some in the audience, who blamed him for not consulting the public before discussion with 43 Air School officials. Ward 9 councillor Stwiga Njibane, who was chairing the meeting, could no longer control the meeting at this stage and some left amid the shouting.
Bonani further grilled the mayor about three of his relatives working at the municipality. In response, Faxi explained that his brothers Monde and Mangaliso were employed before he became mayor, while his sister was employed when he was a “part-time” mayor.
“You know it’s painful that I have to talk about my family, but as a leader these are the things that you will come across,” he said.