Twenty municipalities under administration
Three ANC-run municipalities have been "taken over" by their ratepayers to ensure service delivery.
Ratepayer groups in Sannieshof, in North West, and in Ngwathe and Mafube, in the Free State, have taken over control of basic services such as disposal of sewage and waste removal.
The ratepayers' rebellion has a backdrop of growing citizen activism across South Africa - 30 other ratepayers' associations have refused to pay up to R10-million in rates and taxes.
Twenty municipalities have gone bankrupt and have been put into administration.
It is service-delivery issues such as these that the DA is exploiting in the run-up to the May 18 local government elections.
The party's campaign is highlighting the ANC-led municipalities' poor service delivery records - contrasting them to those of the DA-run Midvaal and Cape Town.
As the ANC prepares to announce its councillors and mayoral candidates, it is battling to stop members standing as independent candidates in the elections.
The chairman of the Sannieshof Residents and Ratepayers' Association, Carin Visser, said residents took over the delivery of services in 2008 when they realised that the town, which does not have waste-removal trucks, was "collapsing".
"We [the ratepayers association] clean the streets . we maintain the graveyards, we repair street lights and supply bulbs. We repair pumps and do all the essential things. Retired engineers help us," she said.
Visser said the water in the town was dirty and they encouraged residents to use bleach to purify it.
"People don't have a problem with paying. They have a problem with paying into a bottomless pit. This town had completely collapsed."
Visser said the waste-water treatment plant stopped working "a long time ago" and raw sewage could soon spill into the Harts River, which is about 500m from the plant.
But Sannieshof, which falls under the ANC-led Tswaing municipality, has an administrator, Tiro Mose, who earns about R150000 a month. Acting town manager Sonwabo Ngcobo, who also "earns in that region" and claims a monthly travelling allowance of about R26000, has not produced an annual report, financial statements or tabled this year's budget.
According to section 139 of the constitution, an administrator's duties include stabilising water and electricity supply, refuse collection, sewage disposal, implementing housing policies, delivering health services and establishing sound financial management.
But Visser said the town was worse off than when it was without an administrator.
The town's mayor, Manketsi Tlhape, said the withholding of rates by residents was adding to the town's many problems.
"It's a poor municipality and many people cannot afford services. We do have a problem with the septic tanks. We have very old infrastructure and pipes are leaking. We have old trucks and no graders," she said.
Tlhape blamed Mose and Ngcobo for failing to prepare annual reports, financial statements and table the budget in January.
Mose could not be reached for comment.
Ngcobo said the municipality had taken over the administration - despite Visser showing The Times an invoice for R35000, which she recently paid for the municipality's tractors to be fixed.
The budget, Ngcobo said, would be tabled today.
Resident Alfred Solwane vowed to vote DA in the coming local elections.
He wants "basics like toilets, water, roads and houses".
In Mafube municipality, which runs Frankfort, Villiers, Cornelia and Tweeling, in the Free State, the residents also provide essential services.
"In December, we spent three days non-stop repairing water pumps," said local residents' association chairman Pieter van der Westhuizen.
"We also assist with filling potholes and cleaning the cemetery. We do waste removals ourselves. This municipality is technically bankrupt," he said, adding that residents started helping last year when they realised that delivery of services had broken down.
Mafube owes the Department of Water Affairs about R29-million and Eskom R20-million for electricity.
Residents of the Ngwathe municipality - responsible for Heilbron, Parys and Vredefort, Koppies and Edenville - said they have started to take over delivery of essential services.
Parys Public Municipal Watch acting chairman Sanette Kruger said they opened a trust account three months ago and then started helping with essential services.
"We are moving in that direction. We will attempt to take over services if they don't improve," Kruger said, adding that the town often goes without water.
The association recently took the municipality to court for cutting off electricity and dumping raw sewage into the Vaal River.
But Co-operative Governance spokesman Nkanyiso Ndadane said withholding rates was illegal.
"Such action is illegal but the department has taken the route of engaging with the associations to find common ground and get them to pay into the municipal coffers," he said.
He said the department was negotiating with the ratepayers associations to reclaim the services, to "allow the municipalities to fulfil their constitutional mandate", and to hand over to the local authorities the money in the trust accounts.