People in the small town of Soutpan between Bloemfontein and Bultfontein say they will be very unhappy if they are incorporated into the Manguang Metropolitan Municipality. Liza van Deventer, co-owner of the Truksvy Koffiesjop, said, “We are a tiny little town and we’re worried that if we become part of a big metro like Mangaung we will be completely overlooked.”
She said although they do have problems with water supply at times, they are not unhappy with the rest of the service delivery provided by the Masilonyana Local Municipality, which also incorporates Brandfort, Theunissen, Verkeerdevlei and Winburg. Soutpan is one of several areas in the Free State that could be impacted by a municipal boundary redetermination process currently underway.
Landiwe Mahlangu, Chairman of the Municipal Demarcation Board, briefed media in Pretoria last week about the process. One of the proposals received by the board is that Soutpan and the nearby township of Ikgomotseng be excluded from Masilonyana and moved over to Mangaung. Heinrie Furstenburg, 58, who has lived in the town since he was born, says things can only get worse if they are moved to Mangaung. “Soutpanners are not happy about the proposed move. We get reasonable service from Masilonyana and are always reading about the money problems in Mangaung,” he said. Furstenburg said a big concern is the possible impact on rates and taxes and therefore the cost of living for residents.
“If we are incorporated into a metro area our property values are going to change completely. We are a small rural town and can’t be compared, we don’t have the kind of services available in a big city,” he said. Meanwhile other changes on the cards for the Free State include the possibility of a new district municipality. Mahlangu told Bloemfontein Courant the board is looking into a proposal that would see Naledi, Setsoto and Mantsopa excluded from Xhariep and Thabo Mofutsanyana District Municipalities respectively.
The proposal is that the three local municipalities bordering Lesotho be incorporated to form the new Naledi District Municipality. “The current proposals that we are looking at in the Free State will be the subject of a public participation process,” said Mahlangu.
There are also proposals around a merger of the Metsimaholo and Ngwathe Municipalities. Sowetanlive reported in January that residents burnt tyres and barricaded roads to protest over the proposed municipal merger. The report quoted the Zamdela Community Concerned Residents as stating Ngwathe is a “poor municipality” with “huge debt to Eskom” that they don’t want to inherit.
Mahlangu says the board is still considering the proposals and they intend completing public meetings at affected municipalities by the end of April. “There may be follow up meetings, we can’t rule that out,” he said.
He is calling on all interested and affected people to participate in the process.
He says the dates of public meetings will be advertised via notices in local newspapers and radio announcements, as well as on the MDB website www.demarcation.org.za.