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Woeful North West town can’t pay its workers — again

By Karabo Rammutla

Workers of the Ditsobotla municipality in North West have once again been left without pay, as the troubled town continues to grapple with financial difficulties.

The seat of the local municipality is Lichtenburg.

Instead of receiving notifications from their banks, workers received an email from the municipality telling them they would not be paid for the month of May.

The email doesn’t tell them when they will be paid. To add insult to injury, those who worked overtime have been instructed to simply abandon any hope of receiving compensation.

It’s yet another sad illustration of the desperate situation many municipalities right across the country find themselves in.

This is also not the first time that Ditsobotla has had payroll issues. Last September, workers experienced a similar delay in receiving their payments.

In response to ongoing problems within the municipality, the North West provincial government made the decision to dissolve the municipal council.

The municipality had been plagued by conflicts between two mayors and two municipal managers, severely hampering service delivery. In the subsequent elections held in December 2022, the ANC won 15 of the 20 contested wards.

The council elected Elizabeth Lethoko of the Patriotic Alliance as the new mayor, although her tenure has not been without controversy.

Shortly after being sworn in, Lethoko submitted her resignation, only to withdraw it later. The municipality’s financial woes extend beyond unpaid workers. It also owes substantial amounts to medical aid schemes and pension funds after defaulting on payments to third parties.

Allegations of ghost workers draining the municipality’s coffers have made matters even worse.

Last week, a motion of no confidence against Mayor Lethoko and ANC speaker Fikile Jakeni was postponed, adding to the turmoil within the municipality. A worker, speaking on condition of anonymity, expressed their frustration, comparing working for the municipality to running a spaza shop.

The worker criticised the lack of communication and transparency, emphasising that a decent employer would have the courtesy to provide timely updates on payment delays.

Corruption was cited as a key factor contributing to the municipality’s financial woes, with claims that political connections rather than merit determined many workers’ employment.

Efforts to obtain a response from municipal spokesperson Pius Batsile regarding the situation went unanswered.

Pictured above: Ditsobotla municipality