The Forever Resorts Blyde where the Councillors were treated for three days.

This week the Greater Tzaneen Municipality sent their Councillors away for three days to the scenic Forever Resorts Blyde River Canyon where they discussed the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) for the coming year.

IDPs are meant to outline strategies to manage municipal finances for the purpose of facilitating everything from basic service provision to infrastructural development, improved spatial planning and even disaster management. Every municipality in South Africa is required to produce an IDP.

IDPs generally take about 6 to 9 months to develop. Once the IDP has been developed, it must be approved by the municipal council. IDPs are reviewed every year, and when local government elections happen, the new municipal council can decide whether they will adopt the existing IDP, expand on it, or develop an entirely new plan. A municipality must be able to adjust its IDP considering changing needs and priorities. IDPs are valid for 5-year periods, and they are enforced and overseen by mayors, executive committees, and municipal managers.

The IDP is revised ever year and will inform the council’s annual budget.

Last year the GTM sent their Councillors away to the Forever Resorts Blyde River Canyon at a cost of R820 000 excluding the reimbursement of the Councillors’ travel costs. Each of the Councillors traveled in their own vehicles (because when you are an important person you don’t travel in busses like the rest of the commoners).

The reasoning behind spending almost a million on this excursion is apparently because the Councillors need to concentrate and cannot be bothered by the public or the other municipal employees during the three-day planning session.

This despite that they all have cellphones on which the public and their colleagues call them with their various issues (some Councillors have two or even three phones which only very exclusive people have the numbers for).

So important is their privacy that they spend there days at Blyde in the pubs and beside the pools during their lunch breaks every day. In some instances, the Councillors don’t even return to the conference room for the second half of the day’s session.

This year, the cost escalated and the GTM spent R896 537 to send the Councillors back to the Blyde. The cost was slightly lowered due to the five DA Councillors that refused to attend.

“GTM held the IDP strategic session at Blyde Canyon Resort from the 04th of December to the 06th of December 2023. The purpose was for management and Councillors to discuss progress reports from previous resolutions and the overall state of the municipality. R896 537 was spent on covering the accommodation and catering costs for all 65 Councillors excluding DA Councillors who were not present,” explained the GTM spokesperson, Vutivi Makhubele.

To break this down – the GTM spent R4 598 per Councillor, per day, for them to re-look an Integrated Development Plan that was adopted three years ago.

In Tzaneen there are many viable alternatives for the Councillors to use instead of traveling outside of their own province. These include the old fire brigade building at the GTM offices which the Councillors use every month for their council meetings absolutely free and without the need to claim for traveling for most of the Councillors who live in Tzaneen town.