MEC announces metro takeover

2013-02-17 10:00

With Nelson Mandela Bay’s municipality in shambles, provincial government steps in

The Eastern Cape government this week moved to address concerns by business formations in the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality that the metro was rudderless and making it difficult to do business in the region.

Bickering and factionalism within the governing ANC in the municipality has resulted in business confidence in the region sinking to its lowest ebb.

This week, the provincial government in Bhisho announced it would take over the administration of the Eastern Cape’s biggest metro, with its industrial heartland, for six months.

Local government MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane said that following the increasing dysfunctionality and administrative chaos within the municipality, national government had decided to place it under administration.

Said Qoboshiyane: “The current administrative and managerial lapses, instability within the municipality, the non-execution of executive obligations, pending litigation and total mismanagement, coupled with a litany of other misdemeanours, have prompted national government to act.”

The actual date the takeover kicks in will be announced shortly.

With a budget of R9?billion and a staff complement of almost 7?000, the municipality has been without a permanent municipal manager for three years.

Currently, the municipality does not have a chief operating officer and eight of its nine executive directors are there in acting capacities.

The one executive director who is not acting – Dr Mamisa Chabula-Nxiweni – will see her five-year contract expiring at the end of this month.

Service delivery and business development have been adversely affected as important decisions to implement projects cannot be taken, and no payments can be made to creditors.

Business has complained of massive red tape, with some captains of industry describing Nelson Mandela Bay as one of the “most prohibitive and expensive” regions in the world in which to conduct business.

Numerous projects with the potential to create much-needed employment are stalled because of bickering between the ANC’s deployees in council and the party’s regional office.

Continental Tyre SA, one of the largest employers in Nelson Mandela Bay, with a staff of 1?700, says it had to wait for 18 months to have its rezoning application to build a warehouse in Walmer approved.

“This, coupled with exorbitant electricity and labour costs, which are double those of even smaller operations in other countries, makes it impossible to compete globally,” said Continental Tyre SA executive Dieter Horni.

“My company has been waiting for the approval of a rezoning application for 18 months and still nothing is coming from the municipality. How do we explain that to our parent company? If such simple things cannot be done, how can we then convince them it is still conducive to do business in Port Elizabeth?” asked Horni.

Continental Tyre SA is one of the largest tyre manufacturers and supplies most of the automotive sector. “The company says it is now considering relocating its retail store,” said Horni.

The municipality’s executive director of economic development, Zolile Siswana, acknowledged Continental Tyre SA’s case, adding he had referred it to “the relevant people”. Siswana also said the company wanted preferential treatment as it wanted its application to be handled within three months, which he said was impossible.

Several full council and portfolio committee meetings are being indefinitely postponed as no municipal official can take big decisions to sign certain contracts. These could later be declared null and void, resulting in serious legal implications for the metro.

The ANC in the region is divided as to who should take the reins as municipal manager.

The party’s regional leadership under Nceba Faku has been fighting to remove Mayor Zanoxolo Wayile, his deputy, Nancy Sihlwayi, and the speaker, Maria Hermans, saying they are not toeing the party line.

Wayile argues the party is interfering and does not differentiate between itself and government.

Due to the chaos and crisis management of the metro, several municipal portfolio committee meetings to discuss rezoning applications have been postponed since last year due to non-attendance by mostly ANC councillors.

Another business executive, who declined to be named, said: “You never get meetings with them (the municipality). They don’t even come back to you.”

Last Wednesday, an important meeting of the municipal accounts committee, which was to discuss cases of fruitless and wasteful expenditure and the Auditor-General’s report, was called off because there was no one to call to account.

It was the third such meeting to be postponed this year.

Nelson Mandela Bay consists of Port Elizabeth, Despatch, Uitenhage, and the surrounding periurban areas of Seaview and Colchester. It has a population of 1.3?million and high unemployment.

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