Francistown City Councillors (FCC) last week set their political differences aside and vowed to take the Minister of Local Government, Slumber Tsogwane to task over lack of developments in the second city.
The councillors were responding to a budget speech presented by former mayor, James Kgalajwe who is also the FCC Chairperson of the Finance Committee during a special council meeting.
Giving his response, the councillor for Philip Matante East, Shadreck Nyeku said that although Francistown is a city, there is nothing to show for its city status because it is not developing.
“Francistown never had any development budget since 2008. I fully understand very well that a lot of projects were shelved due to the predicament caused by the global recession. We once had a meeting with President Ian Khama about the problems be-devilling Francistown but he only explained to us that the country is still reeling from the effects of the global recession, therefore there are no funds,” he said.
“Now that the country is recovering from the recession, we should approach the minister to explain to him the problems facing Francistown. One of the issues really giving me a head-ache is the poor sewage system in the city. A lot of Francistown residents are still using pit latrines because there are no connection points due to the poor sewage systems in place. This exposes them to health hazards.” added Nyeku.
He also bemoaned the poor water storm drainage systems in the city saying that they cause floods during the rainy seasons. He said these floods destroy homes forcing people to live in deplorable conditions.
“This issue should be treated as an emergency,” said a clearly disappointed Nyeku.
Kgalajwe had indicated in his presentation that the total budget for FCC is P180 734 420 for the year 2014/2015. He however said that the council has failed to collect P43 177 420 income during this financial year.
“Up to today council has only collected P14, 805, 392 from rates and other sources. This will impact negatively on the expenditure for this financial year which currently stands at P117, 372, 003,” he said.
He however said that council has taken a stance to improve the situation in 2015/2016 through the implementation of new strategies and identification of new sources of revenue. He said the new strategies include political involvement, house to house campaigns, withholding services, writing letters of demand quarterly, advertising defaulters in newspapers, swiping machines and payment plans(stop orders/direct debits).
He also said for the year 2015/ 2016 council expects to collect P41, 696, 430 which will come from different sources of income especially rates, service levy, staff housing rent, trade licensing and lease rentals.
“Council is also expecting to receive P145, 833,390 as revenue support grant. Therefore the total budget will be P187, 579, 820,”said Kgalajwe.
Councillor Biki Mbulawa of Philip Matante West also supported Nyeku’s sentiments saying that it is high time that they approach the Minister to raise concerns over Francistown’s lack of development. He also took issue with the P187, 579,820 budget estimate for 2015/2016 saying that it will be insufficient for the needs of Francistown.
“Now that we will be operating at such a tight budget, I want to call upon the city council to be prudent in its expenditure because Francistown has got lots of needs. Right now the street lights are never maintained due to the tight budget that our council is operating with. I also feel that our council employees should be further trained in order to be able to deliver services to the people of Francistown effectively. We represent the people of Francistown and their needs should be met,” he said.
Central Ward councillor, Ephraim Maiketso also expressed disappointment over lack of developments in Francistown. He said unlike Gaborone, the developments in the second city are stagnant.
“Our internal roads are a shame. They are tattered with potholes and are worn out. This is a real turn off to investors. We really need to come up with a solution to this problem because no one will develop this city if we do not take full responsibility. I fully support Nyeku on this,” he said.
Special nominated councillor, Tuelo Zazambi however took issue with a statement raised in the presentation by Kgalajwe that the council will withhold services from defaulters who owe the city council money. He said that as councillors, they should not be seen as punishers but servants.
“We should not be seen as punishers to this people because we are their servants. We should come up with sound strategies on how to collect this money,” he said.
For his part, Francistown City Clerk, Lebuile Israel said that they will this year in February hold an executive meeting to set up a strategic plan for the next five years. He said such a strategy will help the councillors and council staff to be able to account to the people they are serving. He however advised the councillors that as they approach the ministry over the problems in Francistown, they should appreciate some of the developments that have been done in the second city. He gave example of the ongoing construction of the Tonota- Francistown road, Francistown stadium, the construction of the Gerald Junior Secondary School and the Thapama Interchange road. He said that these projects costed government over P1 billion.
“Before the minister is approached, I want to advise the councillors to bear in mind the fact that although there has been no development budget; some developments were made in Francistown. You should be prepared when you approach the minister and appreciate some of the developments that have been made hitherto,” he said.
Responding to councillor Zazambi over his concern over withdrawal of services from defaulters, he said it is high time that the city council cracks the whip on defaulters because the city council is owed a lot of money and the debts are long overdue.
“It is high time that stiff measures are taken against those who owe the city council because they are failing us. The money that is owed to this council would help us develop our city,’ he said.