In an Open Letter to the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber says:
Dear Executive Mayor and Committee
As organised business, we wish to voice our dissatisfaction with the current dysfunctional state of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.
We are deeply concerned about the way the environment has deteriorated, making it very difficult for businesses to be sustainable and competitive, and thus able to contribute towards the economic well-being of the City. In fact, the situation should be considered dire with hundreds of jobs currently being shed, while an estimated one in three people are unemployed.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality is a key strategic stakeholder of all businesses in the area serviced by the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality (the “Municipality”) and surrounding areas. The Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber (the “Business Chamber”) represents, and is the mouthpiece for the interests of a substantial portion of these businesses.
It is the duty and mandate of the Business Chamber to promote and protect the interests of business within the NMBM in general, and its members in particular – irrespective of what political party (or parties) govern – due to the apolitical nature of our organisation.
It is the duty of the Municipality to provide basic services to create an enabling environment in which business can operate and grow, ultimately, for the benefit of all citizens. However, when the Municipality is unable to fulfill its executive obligations in terms of the Constitution or legislation due to inefficiencies at local government level, it is stifling the economic growth so desperately needed as businesses are prevented from conducting their normal day to day operations.
In fact, it is our view that the situation has deteriorated to the level where the Municipality, as a result of a crisis in its financial affairs, is in serious or persistent material breach of its obligations to provide basic services or to meet its financial commitments. This results in the collapse of the social contract between the Municipality and its citizens, resulting in the loss of confidence in the ability of the Municipality to govern its affairs, in the best interests of its citizens.
The lack of action and delivery by the Municipality on high priority issues makes it very difficult for the city to attract and retain investment.
As the Business Chamber, our mandate is to catalyse and promote economic growth and development in our city in order to create jobs, thus contributing towards the upliftment of disadvantaged communities. Currently, the Municipality is not a partner in achieving this strategic outcome. In fact, in many instances, the Municipal administration appears to have become a hindrance for growth on both a strategic and basic service level – and is paralysed by inefficiencies, caused by political infighting and which is resulting in the non-delivery of services.
An analysis of Statistics South Africa data reveals that, in comparison to every other metropole in the country, Nelson Mandela Bay is growing its labour force (of employed and job-seeking people) more slowly. Put simply; Nelson Mandela Bay is no longer seen as a destination for job and business opportunity, relative to other South African cities:
Comparative changes to the labour force over the last four years (2015Q2 – 2019Q2)
Region – Increase, in thousands (aged 15-64 years old) – Increase (in percentage terms)
South Africa (as a whole) – 2 081 – 10,0%
City of Cape Town – 190 – 10,3%
Buffalo City – 6 – 2,0%
Nelson Mandela Bay – 9 – 1,7%
(Source: StatsSA Quarterly Labour Force Survey 2nd Quarter 2019; Compiled by the Business Chamber)
Equally concerning, many local businesses are struggling to keep their doors open. Council needs to be cognisant of this as the circa R863 million this Municipality earned in 2017/18 from Commercial Property Rates alone – not even taking into account other service charges to businesses, their licenses and permits – accounted for close to 8% of the Municipality’s total annual revenue or close to 43% of its rates revenue in the 2018 financial year.
In particular, we wish to highlight the following specific areas of concern:
The Municipality has numerous critical vacancies, which have not yet been filled – some for several years. Having key municipal positions filled with acting personnel causes uncertainty, instability and dysfunctionality in the Municipality. It is alleged that it takes close to six months for a job application to be processed by the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality.
Equally concerning is the massive skills loss which has taken place across the Municipality, and which is characterised by a severe shortage of engineers, artisans and planners.
It is further alleged that only two of the eight directorates in the Municipality has permanent Executive Directors. In addition, two crucial positions – that of City Manager and Chief Financial Officer have not been filled, with several role-players filling these crucial seats temporarily, while political squabbling continues to take place. This is an unacceptable state of affairs – we need the right people appointed, fairly and transparently, into the right positions as a matter of urgency.
At the level of basic service delivery, business is severely affected by electricity power dips – particularly when these occur in the industrial areas, with huge material and productivity losses to some of our biggest employers in Nelson Mandela Bay. The power dips are due to a combination of a massive maintenance backlog by the Municipality, as well as what is reported to be R380-million’s worth of electricity losses annually due to illegal connections, theft and tampering. In addition, the big electricity users in the city have for years been engaged in protracted negotiations for a settlement agreement with the Municipality on outstanding electricity bills, with very little progress made.
Recently, Uitenhage experienced a week-long water crisis – with many parts of the town being cut off from all water supply. While we acknowledge that unforeseen circumstances occur, ageing infrastructure in the entire Nelson Mandela Bay is a matter of huge concern which needs to be addressed proactively. Unspent municipal capital budget (reported to be more than 60% unspent) needs to urgently be utilised to solve these huge infrastructural challenges and secure the city’s water supply. We cannot only act when the taps run dry in this Metro.
The Municipality has a history of losing critical investment opportunities due to delayed rezoning applications. Instead of addressing this to attract more investment to the city, the worrying trend continues. We are inundated with complaints from business owners and developers relating to cumbersome property rezoning procedures – with some noting a two-year long ongoing waiting period. On large-scale properties with huge developmental potential, developers noted a waiting period of up to five years.
Additionally, we continue to lose business investment opportunities to more agile, innovative cities due to bureaucratic processes restricting trade. Excessive red tape leaves properties, already purchased for development, vacant for up to five years – this is unacceptable. Our economy, businesses and residents, who would benefit from such developments, deserve better.
The business fraternity notes the lack of a plan and strategy to fight crime in the city. This failure has a direct and detrimental effect on the lives and safety of the citizens of Nelson Mandela Bay, notably those living in crime riddled areas. Despite the alarming upward curve in serious crime the Municipality seems disinterested. This Municipality must focus on getting the basics right and ensure that by-laws are enforced. This is increasingly exacerbated by the growing emergence of organised criminal syndicates, resulting in a concerning conflation of criminal activity within the local economy. The anti-developmental repercussions of this cannot be over-stated.
There was a time when Nelson Mandela Bay was the award winning, cleanest city in the country. This is no longer the case with the collapse of basic cleansing services. This has a seriously negative impact on the quality of life and health of the public of Nelson Mandela Bay. We have been contacted by people bringing international investors into the city – complaining about how filthy the place is and how it would put them off – as it is a clear symptom of a dysfunctional Municipality where service delivery and Municipal concerns for the health of its citizens are not prioritised.
Road markings have faded over time and just not been revived/repainted. Street lights and signage have not been maintained. Potholes have not been fixed and road safety policing has become non-existent. Other than the aesthetical problem of this issue, the other consequences are the potential accidents caused by unmarked roads, signage and potholes and a complete disregard for road safety. The biggest losses related to this are the squandered opportunities for jobs and entrepreneurship in the waste sector. The high unemployment rate and the levels of poverty would be alleviated – taking youth off the streets. Additionally, a project dealing with the recycling of waste in the city would be beneficial to the environment.
The Mandela Bay Development Agency (MBDA) was created 15 years ago for a specific reason: urban regeneration. The latest move reportedly proposed by the Municipality to ‘take over’ the MBDA, is questionable as it undermines the very fundamental reasons why the MBDA was created. It is of critical importance that the entity should remain independent of municipal processes in order to safeguard its corporate governance. We simply do not see the Municipality’s internal directorates having the capacity to successfully manage massive infrastructural projects, in various stages of completion, with legal obligations to contractors. The Municipality should urgently review and finalise its MOU for the MBDA with clear performance targets.
Additionally the poorly managed insourcing of staff from Nelson Mandela Bay Tourism (NMBT) has created a massive vacuum and loss of opportunity to aggressively market, innovate, and collaborate on the Bay’s tourism offering with its associated job creating opportunities. The Municipality has a poor track record in creating or preserving tourism initiatives.
If the current situation is allowed to continue there can be no doubt that ordinary law abiding fully paid up rate payers and citizens of the Municipality have been and will be subjected to an undignified existence with increased health risks and the prospect of their safety, transport, health, housing and educational systems being destroyed as a result of the unconstitutional and irrational actions of the Municipality. The Municipality is responsible for not filling crucial management positions, not spending its funding (derived from business and ratepayers) prudently or at all and adopting an irrational, cavalier and unyielding approach to its constitutional obligations.
The manner in which the city councilors conduct themselves has become a national embarrassment. Council meetings appear to have degenerated to the level where the interests of the citizens of Nelson Mandela Bay have been subordinated to the exigencies of short-term political point scoring, without any regard to the impact that the resultant dysfunctionality has, or may have on the citizenry.
These wide-ranging service delivery and governance failures are detrimental to and individual citizens, while also creating social unrest and thus broader constitutional harm. That much is obvious from the rise in social unrest, protests and destruction of municipal infrastructure and assets occurring weekly in the municipal area.
On Monday, 2 September 2019, the Business Chamber wrote to the Executive Mayor and Mayoral Committee, calling for an urgent meeting to discuss solutions to a number of matters adversely affecting the business environment of Nelson Mandela Bay. Unfortunately, the Executive Mayor and his Committee were not available to meet within a reasonable time. As such, we hereby attach the letter containing the issues that we would have raised.
Under the circumstances the NMBBC is left with no option but to request publicly for an urgent written undertaking from the municipal council that it will implement immediate, urgent and visible interventions in the following areas:
- The development and implementation of a sustainable plan aimed at avoiding or overcoming the management paralysis resulting from a hung municipal council. This should be shared with all municipal stakeholders within the next 30 to 90 days;
- A permanent (not acting) chief financial officer should be appointed immediately, to avoid the deepening of the NMBM financial crisis, and funds (estimated to be some R600 million) allocated by National Treasury to the NMBM from being forfeited;
- The dispute with the suspended Municipal Manager should be resolved and the position filled with a permanent Municipal Manager within the next 30 to 90 days;
- All vacant executive directorships should be filled within the next 30 to 90 days;
- A turnaround strategy for the municipal refuse department, aimed at addressing the collapse in municipal garbage collection and refuse removal so as to secure the health and safety of all municipal citizens, must be developed and shared with all municipal stakeholders for public participation within the next 30 to 90 days;
- A turnaround strategy for the municipal traffic department, aimed at addressing the unsafe road conditions and complete lack of credible and sustainable traffic policing endangering the health and safety of all road users, must be developed and shared with all municipal stakeholders for public participation within the next 30 to 90 days;
- A turnaround strategy for the municipal land use planning department, aimed at addressing the ongoing paralysis in municipal zoning applications, should be developed and shared with all municipal stakeholders for public participation within the next 30 to 90 days;
- A detailed, coherent proposal regarding the municipal tourism strategy and its future management dealing with both tourism generally and the future of the MBDA must be developed and shared with all municipal stakeholders for public participation within the next 30 to 90 days;
The NMBBC remains willing to engage the Council in an attempt to assist with the formulation of meaningful interventions required to turn around the current downward spiral being experienced in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, and again calls for an urgent meeting to discuss solutions to a number of matters adversely affecting the business environment of Nelson Mandela Bay.
However, and in the absence of any meaningful engagement with the City Council, the NMBBC shall be compelled to take such initiative and interventions as it deems to be in the interest of the general public and business community of Nelson Mandela Bay.
We urge the senior leadership of the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality to step up and take action to put the city first.
Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber Board
MEC, Mr XE Nqata
Premier, Mr O. Mabuyane
Minister, Cogta, Dr. N Dlamini-Zuma
APPARENTLY this is the reply to the above letter from Mayor Bobani. (We say APPARENTLY, as it was posted to Facebook by David Alan Hayselden on 13 September at 8:39 AM):
Hayselden says; “Well, well, well………… Here is the Mayor’s response to the Business Chamber’s open letter of yesterday. You make up your mind!”
Statement by Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Executive Mayor Mongameli Bobani on the open letter by Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber
September 12, 2019
The recent open letter by the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber is dishonest, disrespectful and out of order.
The letter is more of a political statement that displays a lack of understanding of how a municipality functions, a lack of understanding of Council responsibilities, disciplinary and recruitment processes.
The letter exposes a number of misconceptions, a shallow grasp of the role the chamber is supposed to play and the manner in which it is supposed to engage the leadership and management of the the Municipality.
It is disappointing to note that in their letter they mention the issue of the City Manager and yet they understand, or should understand how legal processes work.
It is also disingenuous of them to mention the issue of the appointment of the permanent CFO and senior managers in the manner they put it.
They even go further to dictate to the municipality on who to and not to bring to meetings. Having thought they have gone too far, they go even further to dictate to the municipality what to do, how to do it and when.
In their letter they disgeniously create a wrong perception that the municipality is dysfunctional.
One wonders what tools have they used to come to such a conclusion. One cannot help but assume that they are riding the wave of the narrative that has been created by dark forces who are hellbent on pushing for the municipality to be under administration.
The business chamber has decided to ignore our formal engagement processes and platforms that we have established and have deliberately taken a direction of a media campaign to discredit this administration.
They dishonestly create a perception that we do not want to meet them, knowing exactly that I mandated the Deputy Executive Mayor and the Acting City Manager to meet with them and discuss the issues they raised.
The tone, language and posture of the letter reflects a group of people who have consciously decided to enter a political space and form part of opposition politics.
The chamber must understand that politics is not their space. I want to warn them to leave that space.
Whoever who is behind thier campaign, I want to be clear to them that no amount of peddling of lies will change facts. No matter how many times you repeat it.
Let me share some of the facts that the business chamber chose to ignore.
- This municipality has a very healthy financial position. At the beginning of September 2019 the Cash and Cash Equivalents position were as follows: R419 million cash and R 2.9 billion Cash Equivalents (short term investments) in the bank were in excess of R3.4 billion.
- Public Health is working around the clock to clean up illegal dumping sites and Domestic Refuse collection as per the normal program. Cooperatives are already on the ground working. A visible change is already there! We are also working on a supply chain process to acquire more refuse trucks to augment our existing fleet.
- If the DA did not refuse to enter the Council chambers for Council meetings, the CFO and all other Executive Directors would have been appointed. So the DA must take full responsibility for the City not appointing a CFO and EDs. It is clear they don’t have the interest of the city at heart as they claim.
As this coalition government we remain committed in working with the Business Chamber to take this City forward. Our doors are always open, they know that. However we are not going to tolerate disrespect and dishonesty. For us to take the City forward we need honest relationships where government and stakeholders work for the common goal of building a prosperous City.
We have indicated through correspondence to the Chamber that we are still prepared to meet them to discuss the issues they have raised.
Issued by Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Mayoral Office.