GEORGE NEWS - The year is already one month deep, but this time round it will take more than a New Year’s resolution to kickstart into action.
In his first address to council for the year on Thursday 28 January, Mayor Leon van Wyk sketched a bleak picture of the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The finances of the municipality are under strain due to the various lockdown levels imposed since March last year, and businesses and individuals have been affected severely through imposed closures, loss of income and jobs.
On top of this the municipality struggles with backlogs in some of its departments, such as the motor vehicle registration and driver’s licence offices.
“As many businesses in the region rely on buoyant sales over the peak six-week December and January period to sustain them through the winter months, I fear that many of our citizens and small businesses will experience additional hardship in the coming months,” said Van Wyk.
He said the focus now needs to be on assistance in the form of temporary work projects, encouraging investments and ways to facilitate assistance to deal with hunger and poverty.
Van Wyk acknowledged the challenge the municipality is experiencing at the motor vehicle registration and driver’s licence offices, where compulsory operating restrictions have caused massive backlogs.
“Much criticism has been levelled by members of the public, who often stand for hours in long queues at the municipality, even though similar challenges are experienced at all local authorities,” he said.
“Ideally vehicle licences should be renewed well ahead of their expiry dates to obviate the bottlenecks that are created around deadline dates.”
Van Wyk encouraged the public to make use of the available online facilities to renew licences.
He said the staff have been working overtime to address the backlog, and said a “plan of action” is being implemented to set up a separate office to accommodate the motor vehicle industry and to deal with transactions more efficiently.
Read his full address to council: Mayoral address council meeting 28 January 2021
Thoughts from the opposition
The ANC’s Piet van der Hoven said proper communication is needed to inform the public of the online system for vehicle registration. He said there are currently no consequences for illegal dumping, and that is why it has turned into such a massive problem.
He also stated that land must be availed for illegal squatters: “We can’t just move the problem; we must solve the problem.”
Virgill Gericke of the PBI said the closure of the beaches has been highly politicised by the DA government. He criticised the long queues all over town where citizens are inconvenienced and said that municipalities in the Eastern Cape make use of the post office as an alternative venue for functions such as vehicle licence renewals.
“Our formal plea is that you approach the post office for help,” he asked.
Richard Hector of the Good party said Ward 27 in Pacaltsdorp has been hit hard by Covid-19.
“Six people from one family were buried within a week.” He criticised the presence of life savers on the beaches, saying it encourages visits from the public. He also expressed his concern regarding the number of forensic reports pertaining to alleged corrupt activities within the municipality.
Johan du Toit of the ACDP said since 2016 his party has issued a strong plea for the closure of the Voëlklip road, “but we realise this cannot be done because it is a provincial road. Instead we ask for some rocks in strategic places to stop people from going over it.”
Gert van Niekerk of the FF Plus said development is the key to economic growth in George. “When development is halted due to aspects such as our current sewage crisis, the growth of our economy is affected.” He asked for skips at strategic places to help the community manage their refuse.
Related article: Council Updates – Ordinary Council, 28 January 2021
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