President Cyril Ramaphosa’s recent engagement at the 11th District Development Model (DDM) Presidential Imbizo in the Kopano Indoor Sports Centre in Thabong, Free State, saw the convergence of scores of locals from the Matjhabeng Local Municipality. This interactive platform provided an opportunity for South Africans to voice their concerns and expectations directly to the President and key government officials.
The atmosphere was charged with anticipation as residents eagerly awaited President Ramaphosa’s address, particularly focusing on crucial matters in education, healthcare, unemployment among the youth, and the need for improved government services.
Kgosi Mmelwana, a community member from Welkom, expressed optimism about conveying the community’s needs to the President, emphasizing the necessity for more schools and healthcare facilities. He highlighted the plight of learners trekking long distances to access education.
Dithabo Mmutle echoed the sentiment, stressing the inconvenience faced by residents traveling extensive distances to access essential government services. The call was for governmental offices to be situated closer to their communities, reducing both financial burdens and travel time.
Abraham Sithebe, a Grade 12 student, voiced concern over rampant youth unemployment. He urged the government to focus on creating employment opportunities to prevent young people from falling into disillusionment and substance abuse.
This Imbizo marked the second engagement of its kind in the Free State since the inception of the Presidential Izimbizo in 2022. President Ramaphosa’s earlier engagement in the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality revealed pressing issues such as service delivery gaps, corruption, housing shortages, unemployment, and rising crime rates across several towns within the region.
In response to last year’s Imbizo concerns, attending Ministers had committed to addressing critical issues like water and sanitation standards and infrastructural development.
The District Development Model (DDM) Izimbizo aim to foster integrated and sustainable service delivery by streamlining intergovernmental planning and budgeting processes. These initiatives aim to create inclusive economic opportunities across communities, aligning with the goals set out in the National Development Plan.
The focus on the Lejweleputsawa District Municipality during this Imbizo becomes pivotal. Comprising five local municipalities, including Matjhabeng, which anchors its economy in gold and uranium mining, the district is a significant contributor to the Free State economy.
The overarching theme of “Leave No One Behind” underscores the importance of inclusivity in development initiatives. It serves as a platform for assessing progress and understanding challenges hindering efficient service delivery in the region since the previous engagement with the President.
Preceding this Imbizo, collaborative efforts between national, provincial, and local government bodies, along with various state entities, aimed to engage communities and provide assistance regarding necessary services and challenges faced by residents.
The intervention in the governance of the Mangaung Metro, initiated by the national executive under Section 139(7) of the Constitution, emphasizes the government’s commitment to ensuring effective governance and service delivery. The intervention sought to stabilize the municipality’s finances and promote improved governance and livelihoods for residents, businesses, and stakeholders.
Deputy Minister Pinky Kekana from the Presidency highlighted efforts towards stabilizing the Mangaung Metro. Despite challenges, positive strides have been made, including the appointment of a Municipal Manager. Kekana reiterated the commitment to supporting the municipality in overcoming challenges and facilitating enhanced service delivery and economic growth.
The Department of Planning, Monitoring, and Evaluation (DPME) continues its support to the metro through comprehensive monitoring reports and proposed interventions. Collaborative efforts and integrated approaches remain central to overcoming challenges, fostering growth, and ultimately enhancing service delivery and economic prosperity for South Africa.
This engagement serves as a testament to the government’s commitment to directly engage with communities, address concerns, and work collaboratively towards inclusive and sustainable development in the Free State and across South Africa.