Mayor outlines plans for new administration at first full council meeting
Despite some dramatic interruptions from the opposition African National Congress (ANC) including claims that the Speaker was biased towards the Democratic Alliance (DA) led coalition, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality Executive Mayor, Athol Trollip, delivered his speech to the first full sitting of the new Council on Wednesday.
Leader of the opposition, Danny Jordaan, had apparently called in sick.
"Given five short years to bring about change, we remain cognisant of the mandate of the electorate, and under no illusion about the complexity of the task ahead. The complexity extends to the overall makeup of this Metro. We envisage changing the face of the Nelson Mandela Bay and its burgeoning prospects, based on our vision for change and premised on our promise to stop corruption, grow the economy to create jobs, and provide better services. This is the lodestar and mandate of this new multi-party DA-led administration," he told Councillors.
He said the Metro needs to work hard to include all communities into its vision, "so that there is no alienation as we go about our task of creating a caring city - close to its residents and that ensures that when community members engage with government, they are heard".
Trollip said; "A City government that listens to its communities is responsive to their needs, accountable to them and dedicated to ensuring fairness and providing more opportunity. This means making sure that residents can easily communicate their concerns and matters of importance to the city. Importantly, we must ensure that vulnerable members like our aged, people with disabilities, women and children in a caring city are supported to access a better quality of life. Because engaging with a caring city is easy and comfortable, people feel cared for and trust that their interests are looked after.
"As we break away from our dysfunctional past, we need to build a new future and direction relevant to the needs of our communities we serve. This we believe is a crucial lever that will open up opportunity that provides people with a chance to improve their lives."
Skills, business and jobs
Trollip said that in order to provide opportunity for all the people, there must be an environment where businesses want to invest, where entrepreneurship can thrive and where government is supportive and enabling.
"This DA-led local government is committed to creating enabling business environs where there is freedom to innovate. Skills development and facilitating access to opportunities for people seeking employment is an important feature of this environment," he described.
"The city can help create this opportunity-rich space by connecting people and businesses, making sure information is easy to access, and that reformed regulation enables innovation. In a nutshell, we see a city where people and enterprises from anywhere in the world will want to do business, feel welcomed and taken care of for the investment, jobs and opportunities they bring."
A world class city
"Our strategy and vision have at heart the ambition to ensure that Nelson Mandela Bay becomes a world-class city positioned to make the most of its citizenry, location, capabilities and offerings. We see a well-run city that does not have to worry about potholes, broken streetlights and crumbling infrastructure. People in such a city have a good quality of life," Trollip said.
"They have access to excellent and affordable basic services, safe roads and well-maintained public spaces. In these communities there is a high level of trust - where the public know what their money is being spent on and have a say in their government and planning for the future.
"Ensuring fairness for all residents is a key goal of well-run cities. There is transparency in a well-run city and the best skilled people are always considered for employment. A well-run city inspires trust from its residents and provides them with more opportunities."
He said that behind this ambition is a vision of Nelson Mandela Bay where people can feel safe again, when they trust their city will safeguard every aspect of their community’s welfare and ensure that their freedom has meaning.
"Safety means living in environments that are clean and secure and enhance the health of those who live in them. Experienced professionals must deal rapidly with emergencies in these communities. Safe communities have public spaces that all people can enjoy.
"A city that cares about safety also cares about protecting the natural environment. Residents value their homes, neighbourhoods and city, and play an active role in keeping these areas safe. It is a major challenge that cannot be ignored. It will take lots of guts and grit, but it is a major task if we are to create a city that is really safe and secure."
"We also need to make certain that we take full advantage of what is probably our city’s greatest asset – its diversity. Our community has always been proudly multicultural and diverse. So we have to move on issues of diversity, because an inclusive city embraces and welcomes diversity.
"In an inclusive society, all people feel welcome, and differences are celebrated. In this city, all residents are free to flourish as fairness rejects unfair discrimination. An inclusive city ensures that space is provided where all members of the public can come together," he said.
"These spaces provide opportunities for reconciliation from our harmful past so that all who use them will feel a sense of belonging and ownership. Building an inclusive environment means taking deliberate steps to bring people from different walks of life together, where they can live, work, play and love. Harmony and understanding have always brought us together and will continue to be the binding threads. We will continue to take a leading role in fostering and celebrating our multicultural community."
'The elephants in the room'
Trollip said in the next 100 days; "We will deal with all Section 154 interventions due to political instability, governance deficiencies and vacant posts filled by acting Executive Directors and Directors. Directorates and departments cannot be optimally operational without full-time competent leadership.
"We shall develop a new vision and governance model that will define this DA-led multi-party government.
"We have learnt lessons from the Missionvale bulk infrastructure issue, where 15 houses may need to be demolished because they were constructed on a flood-plain. This will not be repeated. Accountability is what prevents repetitive mistakes.
"In terms of the IPTS, we must make decisions on its continuation. We will need to source budget through roll-over allocations, identify routes, and finalise a memorandum of understanding with stakeholders to ensure the currency of mandates and routes. With increasing traffic pressures and issues around access to public transport, transport continues to be a significant challenge for our community and this Metro."
The Mayor said that the Metro was in a water-scarce area and 42% losses cannot continue.
"We must synchronise 'war on leaks' with ongoing training of plumbers and the immediate deployment of plumbers into the worst affected areas. Plumbers must be excellently managed to control leaks and maintain our infrastructure. Major leaks and antiquated bulk infrastructure must be evaluated and the prioritisation of repairs must be rolled out. ‘Best practice’ principles must be applied with maintenance and new construction at 60% and repair at 40% of the budget. Continued over-extraction of this precious resource will have a huge impact on jobs in neighbouring rural areas and compound already grave unemployment in the platteland," he said.
"We will devise a new budget that will be informed by the impending budget adjustment, which will cater for changed priorities. We will assess the existing IDP and undertake a gap analysis between this and our Manifesto. We will develop a new draft IDP for consideration by the citizens of this city who have given us a mandate to bring change and good governance to Nelson Mandela Bay."
He also applauded past successes, such as the BAIC investment in the Coega IDZ.
"We as the DA-led government will do all we can and need to make this enormous investment profitable and sustainable, regardless of where it was conceptualised - it is to the benefit of the people of Nelson Mandela Bay."
He said that over the next 100 days, he will also be identifying what the DA-led administration has inherited "in every respect, to assess what we have got and haven't got".
"We will marry this reality with the weight of expectation of the public and administration and will then craft our vision and values for this government. We cannot be pressured into reflex and ad hoc decisions. We will not act in haste and then repent at leisure! This is not business as usual.
"This vision and implementation plan must obviously be for the information of the public and to their benefit, but must equally and importantly be for the information of all staff and officials. It is critical that they internalise the fact that change has happened in this Metro and that they are now inextricably part of this change," he described.
"In this regard, I want to announce that we will be changing the governance and leadership model of this Council from a MAYCO led by an Executive Mayor with Section 80 committees to an Executive Mayor led MAYCO with the establishment of Section 79 committees."
He said that the objective of this change is to reinforce the concept of the separation of powers espoused in the Constitution and the Municipal Systems and Structures acts.
"This separation of powers enhances oversight and improves accountability. It also ensures hands-on active participation of all Councillors in the affairs of Council. It also ensures that oversight by directorates and the MMC is done on an ongoing and current basis.
"I want this administration to be accountable, to be service-oriented and to be prepared to answer not only to the public, but to you. I have made commitments to be available to interact regularly with society on TV and radio platforms, where I will take responsibility for failure or inefficiencies and where I will keep you and the citizens of this city informed about what we are doing in government," explained Trollip.
"This will in turn mean that our officials will have to be a lot more accountable, accessible and responsive. My MAYCO and I will lead by example and in turn expect the same from the administration.
"I am in the process of visiting all directorates with the Deputy Executive Mayor, the responsible MMC and the Acting City Manager. This is to get a first-hand experience of the composition of Directorates and departments, evaluate leadership, get information on challenges and proposals for the resolution to these. I have asked all MMCs to prepare situation analysis reports for me at their directorates."
He said that this will allow him to then identify areas of concern or deficiency.
"We will conduct a skills audit and place dubious appointments with qualification compliance under the spotlight. This is to ensure that we have an effective, efficient and competent professional staff complement that will allow us to give effect to our Manifesto promises and to bring about much-needed and sought after change. I have already identified some glaring capacity shortfalls in some critical sub-directorates that will require immediate attention and capacitation."
Municipal finances and tariffs
"Our finances are in reasonable shape and for this I must give credit to the former Mayor and his Finance MMC. However, our reserves are precarious and will soon be placed under severe strain if we don’t address our revenue flows, especially with regard to the collection of rates and tariffs revenue. Our budgeted collection target of 94% is the bare minimum and current collection rates of 88% will have catastrophic consequences to our operational budget if not addressed," said Trollip.
"Those who can pay must pay in order to provide for those who cannot. We are doing an analysis of the debtors to be able to identify a strategy to address all outstanding fees.
"The challenge around rates and tariff revenue target achievement is going to be severely exacerbated by our lack of economic growth, unemployment, poverty and the impending recession. These issues are also all directly affected by macro political manifestations - as we have experienced to our collective expense over the last few years.
"The current national political travails are not helping this situation, and I appeal to everyone in the Council not to do anything that will compound this current situation by creating micro political instability, insecurity and chaos. This will serve no-one's interests, least of all the interests of those who are most vulnerable to an economic downturn. It is said that the upper economic class (affluent) and bourgeoisie are best able to survive or endure an economic downturn or recession - the poor just suffer more in these instances. We must and will protect the poor."
"Joblessness is undoubtedly our biggest challenge. The indices in this regard for this city are simply unacceptable and cannot sustain a modern metropolitan city and the requirements of its citizens, especially those that are desperate for decent employment. In this regard, I am intending to establish an economic advisory council that will assist this administration to take the appropriate decisions that will enhance economic growth and job creation," said Trollip.
"Tourism is central to this objective. Nelson Mandela Bay is a world-class tourism destination. Tomorrow is the start of Tourism Month, which will also kick-start a new prioritisation of this sector of our economy. We will have to be much more innovative and strategic in order to unlock the latent but moribund potential that tourism holds for the city.
"We have such huge potential in our beaches, two ports, airport, our weather, our geographical position and being the entry and exit points to the world-renowned Garden Route. No-one goes east of Nelson Mandela Bay – this must change. We will collaborate with neighbouring councils - Ndlambe, Makana, Sundays River, Beyers Naude, and Kouga. There are so many tourism treasures around us that are untapped, largely due to lack of marketing, safety concerns, and ignorance.
"We must continue to seek investment partners and market our city for competitive advantage. BAIC identified these. Nelson Mandela Bay is undoubtedly a beautiful place in which to live, work and play. Our city also prides itself in our education, offering top schools, universities, abundant labour, great people. No-one who's been to the Eastern Cape ever forgets it and those born here are sought after everywhere: in business, politics, sports. We have it all! Come on, let's make it happen!"
Trollip said the some of the things that they will do immediately or plan to implement almost immediately is to identify the challenges that are holding the Metro back.
"Corruption is the enemy of opportunity. Thus, we will be operationalising an anti-corruption hotline that is available to both residents and Metro officials for the purpose of providing information and evidence that will assist in stopping corruption," he said.
"We must also adopt a different attitude to accepting the practice of using deviations. This became a corruption loophole under our predecessors. Deviations should be closely monitored and be used only in exceptional circumstances.
"I will spend at least 2 full days in Uitenhage and Despatch every month to address a long-lasting legacy of isolation. We are one inclusive Metro and it is time for this administration under new leadership to reach out to the forgotten fringe communities."
He said that in terms of dealing with the burgeoning unemployment crisis, "I will launch a Jobs Desk in the Mayor’s Office. The Coordinator responsible for this Desk will engage with universities, business and other industry stakeholders to build a database of available employment and bursary opportunities, to provide a platform for job-seekers".
The municipality will be resurfacing and resealing sections of 15 roads across the Metro, and will roll out a comprehensive ongoing maintenance programme to ensure that all roads, traffic signalling devices and streetlights are in excellent working condition.
"In addition to this, we will appoint 192 EPWP workers to assist with cleaning of stormwater drains and open ditches.
"The IPTS bungle continues to be a national embarrassment, which this government aims to resolve urgently. We will release the Audit Report compiled by National Treasury so that we can account to the public and make provision to roll out a fully-functional public transport system," Trollip said.
"Through cutting appointments and reducing unnecessary expenditure, we will secure R100 million savings over the next 100 days. It is also crucial that we create a tamper-proof Supply Chain Management, by conducting a comprehensive forensic audit and employing the services of a quantity surveyor.
"Furthermore, we must finalise all outstanding forensic audits and ensure that all bid adjudication is fair, open and beyond reproach."
He said that they will finalise the entire municipal organogram to identify overspend in payroll and eradicate any ghost employees.
"We must also fill all critical service delivery vacancies relating to water and electricity, so that we can work toward delivering better services.
"All disciplinary matters will be finalised with haste, so that we hold those responsible for corruption and graft to account," said the Mayor.
The Missionvale Bulk Infrastructure project, which has been plagued by delays and complications, will be completed within the next 100 days.
"Going forward we will ensure that all houses are built in conjunction with sewerage and water infrastructure.
"We are going to fully operationalise the Joint Operation Centre so that it is able to deal with all service delivery related complaints and action appropriate response. We will increase law enforcement across the Metro, bolstered by the swearing in of 50 Metro Police officers, who are adequately trained and equipped to deal with all Metro Policing matters," he said.
"The Metro Police will work in collaboration with the South African Police Services to roll out at least 3 road-blocks every week, monitoring vehicle roadworthiness and licensing.
"The municipal court will be resourced appropriately to ensure that all bylaw cases are dealt with swiftly and without hindrance," the Mayor said.
"We will ensure that the Problem Buildings By-law is brought before Council and passed so that we can begin a process of rejuvenating our inner city and other areas. The days of collapsing, derelict buildings are over.
"We are going to review the existing housing list to ensure that it is in order, and then make this list publicly available at all municipal buildings. Only residents who are on the list will receive a house and title deed."
He said that they will ensure that weekly refuse collection is rolled out in every community, overgrown bushes are cut back, and litter is picked up.
"We will make our Metro clean again. All those caught dumping illegally will be fined and repeat offenders will have their vehicles impounded. We are going to ensure that the Ward Committee allocation procedure is fair and transparent, and will make all Councillors accountable to the people they serve."
"All municipal resorts will be assessed for viability. Those that are in a state of disrepair will be considered for private management through a fair tendering process.
"We are going to revive the defunct Thusong Centre by opening up a one-stop-shop for residents who wish to make applications and receive information relating to licensing, land use and rates," Trollip said.
"A Tourism Advisory Council will be established so that we can capitalise on our tourism potential, which will bring additional revenue into the Metro and could see the creation of thousands of jobs.
"We are also going to open the Red Location Museum, through constant dialogue with the community, so that we can have a place to celebrate our local and national icons through art exhibitions and displays."
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