Buffalo City Metro Council Extends One Month Waiver To Consumers

The Buffalo City Metro Council has extended a one-month waiver period to consumers.

Buffalo City Metro Executive Mayor Cllr Xola Pakati tabled an exigency report at a virtual Council meeting today recommending that Council considers giving the credit control policy added time in order to manage outstanding billing issues.

All political parties in Council unanimously supported the recommendations which are as follows:

  • That Council NOTES the issues contained pertaining to the impact of resuming the full credit control policy implementation on Revenue Management Operations within BCMM.
  • That Council gives the credit control policy and utilize only partial block (60/40) on the prepayment system to recover outstanding debt to allow customers added time to make the necessary arrangements of bringing their accounts up to date.
  • That the extended one-month period be utilised for public participation to encourage customers to bring their municipal accounts up to date and implement the Revenue Management Roll-out program to address the billing queries.
  • The additional one-month period for the month be for the month of February 2021.

Council has also approved a roll out program to be held every Saturday from 06 February to 06 March 2021 for customer queries to be serviced.

Furious Komani Residents Take to The Streets Over Constant Power Outages

In the latest spate of electricity challenges, the Komani community took to the streets on Tuesday to protest power outages caused by the damaged Queendustria transformer which was struck by lightning on Friday 22 January.

After the power went out on Friday, Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality (EMLM) reported that the damage needed to be assessed, and that they could not do so on that day. On Saturday they reported that the transformer had been assessed, and that it could still be used but needed to be reconditioned by an external specialist as they do have one in their employ.

On Monday 25 January the municipality said they had found a Johannesburg based specialist, and promised that they would be on site by midday on the 26th. By 16:00 on Tuesday the specialist was still not in Komani.

This agitated community members as they were not getting any concrete communication from the municipality except for Facebook posts, which they could no longer access due to most of their mobile devices also being out of power. Ward councillors and the Mayor were nowhere to be seen.

Scenes from the Komani Residents’ Power Outage Protest

“The only updates we were provided were from the communications department and the control room. I called the control room on 25 January and was told that they were on site draining oil and things were looking positive,” said Border-Kei Chamber of Business’s Komani Administrator Adre Bartis.

Bartis also added that she had gone to the site to take pictures, but upon arriving at the site, no one was there and no work was being done. The EMLM’s communications department denied that she had been informed of any work being done, even though local media and community had gotten the same information.

An update posted on Tuesday afternoon on the Municipality’s Facebook page read: “The service provider (specialist) is still on the way and has not yet arrived at the site. Work will commence on arrival of the specialist. The Municipality pleads for patience from all affected community members.”

The Komani office of the Border-Kei Chamber of Business engaged with the municipality, but could not get any concrete feedback. Local Businesses were willing to assist with generators, but that solution quickly became an issue as the logistics of transporting the generators, as well as filling them with fuel did not seem viable.

“We looked into a mobile transformer but this was too small to assist with the current issues. We were asked to be patient and to call the control room regularly for updates, which we did daily. Our FB page and the administrator’s Facebook page was updated daily as per the information received from the municipality,” said Bartis.

The community strike caused havoc in the area as it saw the 4-ways to Ezibeleni being closed, with residents preventing vehicles from coming in and out. This meant that taxis had to stop there and the elderly had to walk into the location. Residents were also asking who would pay for their food which was damaged due to there being no electricity.

Komani residents are no strangers to the power problems they face currently, and claims are that it could have been avoided.

In 2020 the Municipality bought a new transformer for the Unathi Mkefa area. However, this transformer was problematic and it was returned to the manufacturer in Johannesburg. They repaired it with no cost to the municipality and it was returned and installed by the local municipality. The transformer gave issues for a second time and returned to the manufacturer again.

The manufacturer confirmed that the problem was not on their side and that the local municipality had to sort a few issues out on their side before they would return the transformer.

The transformer failed because the phases were not properly balanced and there was no downstream protection.

Local beverages manufacturer, Twizza, brought in their consultant to assist with testing. The quote they obtained was to rectify the problem and to bring the installation up to Eskom standards. However, the municipality did not follow the consultant’s advice. Instead, they linked the Unathi Mkefa line with that of Queendustria causing tremendous strain on the transformer in Queendustria.

The constant outages can be resolved by returning the Unathi Mkefa transformer and to reduce the strain on the Queendustria transformer.

To keep updated on these issues, members are advised to follow BKCOB’s various social media platforms and website.

Call-2-Action Pilot Sites Handed Over to Contractor

It is all systems go for the Call-2-Action initiative after its newly appointed contractor, the Mpinga Business Group, was officially handed the project’s four pilot sites on Wednesday 20 January.

The pilot sites, which are situated in Settlers Way, Quigney, Southernwood, and Oxford Street will in no time have fully functioning waste buy-back centres, redirecting tons of recyclable waste from reaching landfill.

Buffalo City Metropolitan Development Agency (BCMDA), Polyco, Invest Buffalo City and The Border-Kei Chamber of Business (BKCOB) met with the Mpinga Business Group at the four sites on Wednesday to iron out the details of construction, as well as the safety measures to be implemented once the sites are operational.

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Representatives from BCMDA, BKCOB, Mpinga Business Group and Polyco at the Oxford Street Site.

Work is set to commence as soon as all the necessary supplies have been procured by the contractor. The stakeholders will also engage the respective councillors in order to source labour from each of the demarcated areas.

Call-2-Action is a recycling and waste minimisation initiative that will change the very environment we live in. In its early stages, the project successfully diverted nearly 1-million Kgs of recyclables waste from landfill, which was then reintroduced as raw materials for manufacturers.

Much of the groundwork done for the project was halted due to the Buy Back Centre burning down in November 2019, as well as the COVID 19 pandemic. However, various stakeholders have been engaging to find ways of supporting the project forward.

TCN Architects supplied a new design for the recycling sites, the funding of which is sponsored by Polyco, who will go on to make additional funding available for further sites if this pilot is successful.  

The recycling centres will not only provide an income stream for recyclers, but will also provide employment opportunities for community members during construction.

BKCOB Making Steady Progress in Resolving Water Billing Disputes

Towards the end of 2020, the Chamber sent out a call to members to submit their BCM water billing disputes.

Close to a hundred disputes from BKCOB members were received, and about 75% of those have been resolved through collaborative effort between the Chamber, and BCM’s finance department.

A webinar was held in late 2020 between the Chamber, BCMM finance staff, and the BKCOB members who had had billing issues. Businesses got to speak directly with the municipality, about their issues and concerns.

Companies such as Investpro, Anax Logistics, Own Haven, and Strategic Placements were part of the group of queries to be resolved.

Gonubie resident, Mr Shaun Searle who also noticed discrepancies in his billing also contacted the Chamber for assistance, and his issue has been resolved.

“I am very impressed with the service and immediate, personal response each person was afforded, as well as the work being done going forward. The one-on-one nature of the meeting was very refreshing. I look forward to more of these types of fruitful discussions in the future,” said Searle.

Going forward, the Chamber is still committed to assisting its members by liaising with the municipality to resolve issues of this nature.

“The recent resurgence of both water and electricity billing issues within our metro is of great concern. We will strive to resolve these issues for members as soon as possible, and we look forward to seeing progress,” said BKCOB Acting Executive Director, Drayton Brown.

If members still have issues, they can submit them to Zintle Quntu via email on commadmin@bkcob.co.za

Investment Expert Appointed CEO Of AIDC EC

Trade, Investment and Policy Specialist, Thabo Shenxane has been appointed CEO of the AIDC Eastern Cape.

Mr Shenxane joins the AIDC Eastern Cape (AIDC EC) from his position as Head: Trade, Investment & Innovation at the Eastern Cape Development Corporation (ECDC). He holds a Master’s degree in Economic Policy from the University of Stellenbosch.

In a statement announcing the appointment, AIDC EC Board Chair Mr Phumzile Zitumane said Shenxane’s deep experience in unlocking development funding would “assist in lifting the lid on the AIDC EC’s contribution to the growth of the region’s automotive and manufacturing sectors and the Eastern Cape economy in general.”   

Specialising in Policy, Investment and Trade development, Mr Shenxane has also served in executive leadership roles at South Africa’s national Department of Trade and Industry, the Department of Economic Development in the Western Cape, Amathole Development Agency and the Umsobomvu Youth Fund in a career spanning 23 years.

At the behest of the Minister of Finance he had been appointed a Board Member of the Co-operatives Banks Development Agency (CBDA) between 2013 and 2016. 

In his role at the ECDC over the past four years Shenxane and his team at the ECDC secured investment revenue worth R3.6billion for the Eastern Cape, but he has always balanced high-level trade and investment with the priority of supporting small enterprises.

In the private sector as the MD of Chumisa Consulting, he completed successful strategy development and skills related contracts for, among others, the Department of Economic Development and Environmental Affairs of the Eastern Cape to develop a Provincial SMME Strategy in 2009. Other studies include “Challenges facing Youth Co-operatives in Gauteng” for the Gauteng Youth Commission, a Review of the Implementation of the Gauteng B-BBEE Strategy in partnership with ECI Africa and a review of the North West 1998 Provincial SMME Strategy.

Shenxane said he was relishing the opportunity of serving the AIDC EC team and growing its impact.

“I am looking particularly forward to working with the AIDC EC team who are industry-involved industrial and manufacturing specialists, while also maintaining the high governance standards that have marked the AIDC EC’s 18 year history. We are planning to bring the issues of the automotive sector as part of policy priority to the Eastern Cape Provincial Government”.

“As a responsive and focussed government agency that works to achieve both industry and government priorities – which are not mutually exclusive – the AIDC EC will continue to support inclusion and growth in the automotive and manufacturing supply chain, which is essential to the socio-economic development of the Eastern Cape,” Shenxane said.

Zitumane said former industry-steeped CEO Hoosain Mohamed who “remained a vital asset” would complement Shenxane’s appointment in the new role of business development. 

The AIDC EC, founded in 2003, is an Eastern Cape Provincial government subsidized agency mandated to assist the region’s important automotive and manufacturing sectors become more globally competitive.  

For more info see www.aidcec.co.za