It is sad but indisputable that we have been hit very hard by the outbreak of COVID-19. I know however, that we are a resilient, courageous and caring community who tackles all challenges with innovation and determination. I have no doubt that our community will therefore make it through this crisis, more resilient and stronger than before.
According to the information provided by the Provincial Government, 16 residents in the greater municipal area have tested positive for the virus (as at 5 April 2020). The health department has taken the necessary steps to isolate and treat these cases and they continue to monitor the situation closely. COVID-19 testing and screenings are being rolled out nationally and the Western Cape Government launched this program on Sunday, 5 April 2020. Health workers will soon be visiting our region. Community Healthcare workers will be identifiable by their uniforms and ID cards. Please request the person’s credentials as part of the rigorous safety precautions. I urge you to cooperate with them and to be patient. They are risking their safety to ensure ours, and we thank them for their sacrifice.
We are continuing our efforts to encourage good hygiene to limit the spread of the virus. We will therefore be installing twenty additional water tanks across our municipal area this week. These tanks have a 5000 litre capacity and will be installed in strategic areas including Enkanini, Watergang, Langrug and Meerlust. The tanks will be fitted with fittings that will allow 5 taps to run at a time. We will fill these tanks on a daily basis to ensure that all our residents have access to clean, safe water sources. Our sincere thanks to the Western Cape Provincial Department of Human Settlements that made these additional tanks available to us.
We are also cleaning and sanitising public spaces. This is part of our efforts to protect the health and well-being of our community. Our teams have already cleaned and disinfected the Stellenbosch CBD and the Bergzicht taxi rank. This program will be rolled out across the region and will focus on sidewalks and streets in town as well as taxi ranks in Kayamandi, Klapmuts and Franschhoek. The focus is on areas where there are a lot of foot traffic and includes trash cans and public seating areas. We want our residents and visitors to feel safe and secure in their environment.
Essential services continues during this time and I want to sincerely thank all our staff who are working on the front lines every day to make sure that our communities are cleaned and that services continue uninterrupted. The process was however not without its challenges and as you know we experienced some difficulty with regards to solid waste removal. These issues are now resolved and we worked very hard to clear the backlog and continue services.
All our administrative staff continue to work from home to make sure any queries or problems are addressed. Our call centre and emergency numbers are also manned throughout this time and residents can call or e-mail us. We also have a dedicated WhatsApp that is manned 24/7.
As a municipality, we have taken bold steps to reduce the economic impact on our residents, particularly our most vulnerable residents and a decision was made to assist our communities in the following way:
- A payment reprieve/holiday on property rates will be implemented from 1 April 2020 to 30 June 2020;
- No interest or penalties will be charged for property rates billed over this period (subject to criteria that will be made available on the municipal website);
- Free basic water allocation for indigent residents will be increased from 6 to 10 kilolitres per household from 1 April 2020 to 30 June 2020;
- A temporary suspension of all credit control measures and procedures will be implemented until the end of April 2020, meaning that all electricity meters that were blocked because of overdue accounts, will be unblocked and residents will be able to buy and upload electricity freely during this period.
We have also made provision for homeless residents in the region. They are being accommodated at a local facility and are being provided with meals, security and sanitation services.
The Municipality is working with SCAN, the Stellenbosch University, Visit Stellenbosch and the Greater Stellenbosch Development Trust and various NGO’s as #StellenboschUnite to help our most vulnerable residents during this time. Many residents have lost their income due to the lockdown. With the #StellenboschUnite initiative we want to supply weekly food packages to identified vulnerable families. A basic provision food parcel will be provided to a minimum of 2500 homes per week across our entire region. To be successful in our efforts we will need at least R250 000 per week. Any person wanting to assist can make a donation to the Greater Stellenbosch Development Trust. All the details about the project and the account details are on our website (www.stellenbosch.gov.za) and on our Facebook page.
My heartfelt gratitude goes out to each and every one who has been sharing our message of STAY AT HOME, and who has given their cooperation during this lockdown period. Thank you also for the assistance you have given to help those less fortunate in our communities. I also want to express my sincere gratitude to all our health workers, law enforcement workers and our own municipal staff who form part of essential services and must go out every day. We are so grateful for the amazing work you are doing to serve and protect us.
Please continue to STAY at HOME and help us beat COVID 19.
In the words of the old gospel song: “We shall overcome!”
Stay safe, stay at home!