No houses, huge debt and job losses await ANC in Nelson Mandela Bay

2011-05-21 16:24

Nelson Mandela Bay might belong to the ANC now, but a crippling R500 million debt, a 38% unemployment rate and a housing shortage need to be addressed urgently.

Zanoxolo Wayile, the party’s mayor-elect, is well aware that the ANC must immediately ­confront its own shortcomings to reverse the loss of electoral support it has suffered in the past few years.

The ANC narrowly won control of Nelson Mandela Bay, with about 52% of the vote – down from 66% in 2006.

While ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe downplayed the loss, saying it was an improvement on the 49% the ­party gleaned against Cope in the 2009 election, he also ­acknowledged that serious ­lessons must be learnt from this year’s ­election.

Wayile stressed that there was still much work to be done if the expectations of voters are to be met.

Unemployment in the district is at 38% and is concentrated among the youth and women.

Service delivery is important, but radical changes in economic patterns to reduce unemployment, and the gap between rich and poor were the real crux of the problem, he said.

“We must balance service ­delivery vis-à-vis the radical redistribution of the economy so that Africans are not reduced to consumers of service delivery.

“They must play an important role in the economic mainstream of the country.”

There are some major projects in the pipeline – the R10 billion Madiba Project aimed at creating up to 37 000 jobs through tourism and Petro-SA’s Mthombo Project to create over ­20 000 jobs – which he hopes will help the municipality address the problem of high unemployment.

In a region that is heavily dependent on the automative sector, the metro suffered massive job losses during the recent world economic meltdown.

If he returns as mayor, Wayile will have to find ways to sort out the R500 million debt the municipality reportedly accumulated from its underfunded World Cup and housing projects.

He says the municipality has had clean audit reports from the auditor-general for the past three years and intends to address the financial crisis.

A team of experts from the National Treasury has been roped in to lend a hand.

Wayile said the ANC could not have faced its 100-year celebrations next year without control of Nelson Mandela Bay.

“(A loss) would have been a huge embarrassment to a number of liberation heroes who emerged here,” he said.

Both Cope and the DA did their best to wrestle control of the metro from the ANC, even announcing they would consider forming a coalition to run it.

Although the ANC is due to announce its mayoral candidates this week, the 45-year old former trade unionist is tipped to retain his position.

Of course, Wayile denies any suggestion that he is interested in remaining in power, saying he was reluctant to take the position three years ago.

“I have never harboured any ambitions of serving at regional level, Cosatu level or as mayor. The organisation always ­prevails.

“I don’t exist as an individual outside the values and policies of the organisation.

“My appointment as mayor came as a surprise.

I had been trying to persuade comrades not to assign me this responsibility,” Wayile says.

He reckons being a mayor is not as glamorous as it seems and is a thankless task not ­dissimilar from trade union work.

“The trade union movement is a good school.

“You learn to handle anger, frustration and insults from workers. Workers at times are thankless.

Even the mayor’s job is thankless because you can’t satisfy all the people in the ­metro,” he says.

Critics say the way he runs the municipality is too interventionist.

They feel that he should focus on political leadership and leave administration to bureaucrats.

But Wayile reckons that there should be “no Chinese wall” between policy implementation and political leadership.

Politicians always draw flak from voters when bureaucrats fail to implement policy, he says.

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