A large crowd of people gathered together at Trim Park, each and every single person waiting for answers.
Protest coordinator, Mdu Mnisi started the community meeting, explaining how stakeholders met with the Newcastle Mayor, to determine whether protest actions would continue or if the municipality would work towards a solution for the issues which were raised.
Issues include the staggering debt the Newcastle Municipality owes to Eskom, the increase in the rates and paid parking.
With the crowd at Trim Park filled with tension, Cllr Mahlaba faced the daunting task of addressing everyone.
Cllr Mahlaba states that he and the Newcastle Municipality take residents’ grievances very seriously. Therefore, it was of the utmost importance that they come to an amicable solution.
When Eskom’s notice was published, he claims he was just as shocked as every other Newcastle resident. “We need to listen to everyone’s grievances and when the notice was published, it triggered a lot of things and I would be lying if I say we were not concerned.”
Despite the rumours of Eskom being owed well over R200 million, Cllr Mahlaba says the municipality actually owes in the region of R175 million. He claims some of the monies were written off.
“This debt started in 2012 and it accumulated. It was discovered there were streetlights which even belong to Eskom which ballooned the debt.”
Despite fears of a power outage, Cllr Mahlaba says the Newcastle Municipality, Cogta and the Provincial Treasury has since met Eskom and have successfully resolved the issue.
A payment plan has now been implemented, which the Newcastle Municipality will pay over the next 30 months. The Mayor assures residents that the lights will stay on.
As for the rates, Cllr Mahlaba says the municipality is not behind the increase, but rather the Municipality Property Rates Act (MPRA).
He explains as property values increase, so do the rates. However, he urges people to submit an inquiry if they are not happy with the rate increase on their property. He himself has even submitted an enquiry regarding the rate increases on his property.
To date, no protest action has been planned and while the community was not 100% happy with the answers submitted by Cllr Mahlaba, it seems Newcastle will not have to fret about power outages, which is fantastic news for us all.
Were you at the community meeting? If so, what are your thoughts on the matter? Share your views with us in the comment section below.