Organised criminal networks in cities have realised that their crimes can go undetected if they align themselves with political factions in municipalities, former deputy finance minister Mcebisi Jonas said.
Speaking at the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber annual general meeting, Jonas warned of a prevailing connection between crime, politics and the economy.
The Bay has seen an emergence of organised crime, including hit murders which police believe are linked to fights over municipal projects.
“What we’re finding in many cities is the conflation of criminal networks, political networks and economic networks, which is very dangerous for development.
“In fact it is undevelopmental,” Jonas said.
“If someone has figured out that ‘I can get more money by not stealing cars, for example, but by finding my way into political systems and into municipal structures’, it is more dangerous for the future of the country.”
Jonas said this trend had begun to show itself in different parts of the city.
“We will ignore this at our own peril because it is happening at a very fast pace,” he said.
Jonas was a guest speaker to mainly local business leaders gathered at the Radisson Blu hotel.
Speaking of the urgent need to grow the economy, Jonas said cities had a central role to play in driving innovation.
It was vital to create investment-creation agencies.
“There needs to be better collaboration between cities, nonprofit organisations and the private sector,” he said.
“Municipalities also need to make it easier [to do] business, cut red tape and have technical capacity and continue to thrive.
“A new councillor coming into a municipality should be someone who understands the link between economic growth and what he or she does.
“We need an investment development agency that promotes tourism with investment that is highly technically empowered with a level of independence.”
He said it had become prevalent for municipalities to increase rates annually, but that did not always result in efficient services provided by the municipality.
“There should be a connection between rates and efficiency of municipality,” he said.
“If there are high levels of inefficiency, a municipality cannot continue raising rates.”
The metro should also pose questions to itself and ask if it was open for business, if it was actively cutting red tape and building regional competitiveness as well as working with other stakeholders.
Urban practitioner and Our Future Cities founder Rashiq Fataar spoke on how the private sector and nongovernment organisations could come together and integrate public spaces, improve business turnover and make them user-friendly for everyday people.
It was also VW CEO Thomas Schaefer’s last address as president of the chamber’s board. Schaefer’s two-year tenure as president came to an end on Wednesday.
He said the AGM came at a challenging time when, globally, the year under review was marked by sociopolitical and socioeconomic turbulence.
“Locally, we have witnessed bruising political fights which have threatened to derail the city,” he said.
“Not only has this been a bad period for Nelson Mandela Bay’s image, [but] it has certainly had a negative bearing on potential investments.”
A new board president will be elected at the chamber’s next meeting.