Every morning when Agnes Mahatlhane steps onto her front yard, she is confronted by her local municipality’s ineptitude.
For more than two months a front-end loader belonging to the JB Marks municipality in Ventersdorp has been parked outside her home.
It has blocked part of the right-hand lane of Manaka Street.
The road is narrow as it is and the new obstruction makes navigating it difficult.
To avoid collisions, motorists are forced to climb Mahatlhane’s pavement.
The 58-year-old has notified the municipality about the vehicle but has not received a response.
Her heavy sighs and scowl are emblematic of many people’s attitude towards the local municipality in Ventersdorp.
Agnes Mahatlhane (58) looks at the front end loader that has been parked outside her home in the Makweteng township in Ventersdorp for over two months. Picture: Chante Schatz/News24
“It’s hard to live in this situation”
“There has been no improvements – everything in the town has deteriorated,” resident King Mogale told News24.
The 53-year-old was born and raised in the small farming town.
“We experience frequent water and electricity cuts – without notification.”
Constant power outages have destroyed several appliances at Mogale’s home.
“It’s hard to live in this situation.”
King Mogale (53) sits at a local office in the town of Ventersdorp. Picture: Chante Schatz/News24
In 2016, the Ventersdorp and Tlokwe municipalities were merged to form the JB Marks municipality.
The districts are an hour’s drive apart – Tlokwe is in Potchefstroom.
When news of the merge was made public, Ventersdorp residents protested.
Locals complained about the lack of consultation regarding the amalgamation.
One of their chief concerns was that it would further delay service delivery in their town because their requests for services would have to be filed in the Tlokwe municipality.
The lack of drainage infrastructure has led to a build up of water in many streets. Chante Schatz/News24
Implosion of the new municipality
“The JB Marks municipality has been placed under administration. This fact, on its own, is not what is infuriating residents; honestly most are not surprised. The fact that officials have been warned about the impending implosion of this new municipality since its inception is what has the residents up in arms,” an irate resident wrote in a letter the editor in the latest edition of the Potchefstroom Herald.
Earlier this week, it was revealed that provincial government planned to place the municipality under administration.
The municipality said in a statement on Tuesday that provincial government had “identified several areas where it feels the municipality is struggling in relation to service delivery”.
These latest developments follows years of complaints about mismanagement, corruption, and the collapse of service delivery.
The stalling of a development project in Ventersdorp saw the municipality shut down late last year on the back of sustained protests.
An illegal dumping site in the Tshing township of Ventersdorp obstructs passage to the local cemetery. Picture: Chante Schatz/News24
Our municipality is not functioning
The lack of service delivery is there for all to see when driving through parts of Ventersdorp.
Several streets within the local townships are lined with litter.
Vacant land has become dumping sites.
The lack of drainage infrastructure has led to a build up of water in many streets.
Community activist Sello Dassie said municipal officials made big promises but when it comes to delivering they fall short.
“The whole issue of service delivery is in tatters because … our municipality is not functioning.”
The 41-year-old who has been living in Ventersdorp for more than 30 years said the town would be better off as an independent entity.
Like Dassie, many locals feel that the amalgamation of the municipalities pushed the needs of Ventersdorp residents to the fringes.
They feel that people living in the much bigger and more urbanised Tlokwe district get top billing.
“Nothing is better since we merged with Tlokwe, things are worse,” said Dassie.
Sello Dassie (41) stands outside a local office in the town of Ventersdorp where he meets with community leaders to discuss the town’s municipal issues. Picture: Chante Schatz/News24
Finding common ground
The announcement of JB Marks municipality being placed under administration was not warmly welcomed by officials.
Subsequently, the municipality’s council rejected the provincial government’s decision.
The council felt blindsided and said there needed to be a thorough consultation process before a final decision was made about the municipality’s future.
In statement released on Friday, the North West provincial government said it was open to “engage further” with the municipality in hopes of finding the best solution to address imminent issues.
Although the future of the JB Marks municipality is uncertain, what is clear is that residents need effective leadership and a well-organised local government to follow through with their promises.
Elizabeth Ntlatlane (33) removes sand from an already-built foundation for her new RDP home in the Toevlug township of Ventersdorp. As the JB Marks municipality’s fate hangs by a thread, the future of the construction of her home is uncertain. Picture: Chante Schatz/News24