The leader of the DA, Helen Zille, recently published an article titled Nelson Mandela Bay – The Next Big Thing. As nice as it is to read of people’s desire to change the government in our region I must confess to a sense of disquiet at the method employed to do so – even if it is not as in your face as some.
Let me explain.
As I have said to many local politicians from all sides of the feeding trough; “If you look critically at every incumbent councillor which one (regardless of political affiliation) is the stand out one that you will say is fit to be the Executive Mayor? Which one embodies the qualities of strong leadership needed to make our metro a success? Which one will make decisions based on what is good for all citizens rather than what is good for the party?” I wager that the answer to that question is a simple; “Not one!”
I tell anyone who will listen that to be an opposition party in waiting that is qualified to govern that opposition party must demonstrate it’s ability to govern. Merely taking shots at an existing status quo without providing workable solutions is just shouting from a soapbox – lots of hot air and emotion gets votes but the follow through and application is what gets return votes.
Lets take Zille’s ‘Next Big Thing’ and list first of all the nice things she said about our region and by extension us:
Zille starts with a statement of fact; “With 44% of the Provincial GRP, Nelson Mandela Bay Metro is the beating economic heart of the Eastern Cape. The metro comprises the city of Port Elizabeth, the towns of Uitenhage and Despatch and the surrounding rural areas. Importantly, it also includes the Coega Industrial Development Zone (IDZ) – a 110 square kilometer industrial complex – as well as the adjacent Ngqura deep water port.”
- Then one nice thing; “Nelson Mandela Bay Metro has a good network of highways, rail and air transport and enormous potential as a tourist destination.”
Now let’s look at all the things that Zille notes as wrong with Nelson Mandela Bay and by extension how all of us living here contributed to those failings:
- More people leave the Eastern Cape each year than any other province. Between 2006 and 2011, more than a quarter of a million people quit the Eastern Cape for other provinces. While the rest of the country’s population is growing, the Eastern Cape has seen a net loss of almost 280 000 people for the ten years from 2001 to 2011. There’s one primary reason that they’re leaving, and that’s jobs. At 44,4%, the Eastern Cape has the highest expanded or “broad” unemployment rate in South Africa – way above the national rate of 35,6%. (In the Western Cape this is 25,4%).
- Envisaged to turn Port Elizabeth into a manufacturing and export hub and transform the region’s economy, the multi-billion Rand Coega development has yet to deliver on its promise. For years now there’s been a steady trickle of reports of new investment, but none of these is the big anchor tenant – the employer of thousands.
- Nelson Mandela Bay Metro has a broad unemployment rate of nearly 37%. More than a third of Nelson Mandela Bay’s adult population is jobless.
- The one thing that is lacking is probably the biggest maker or breaker of investment decisions – and that is good, clean, stable governance.
- The metro is on its third mayor in five years. It’s taken three years to fill the positions of Executive Directors. The City Manager – the highly capable and head-hunted Lindiwe Msengana-Ndlela – quit her job last year after only five months because of unbearable political interference from the executive mayor and deputy mayor. Not only was she pressured to manipulate tender and appointment processes, but the mayor even went as far as making veiled, sinister threats of “…violence and the ultimate price that is paid by those who do not submit to majority rule”.
- It is time voters learnt that voting for a government with a track record of corruption is interpreted by that government as voter endorsement of corruption.
- Unsurprising is the lack of large investments in the region. This political manipulation of state institutions, and the resultant instability is precisely what drives big corporations away from Nelson Mandela Bay Metro. More than anything else, potential investors want stability, policy clarity, fair rules and predictability.
- Electricity in Nelson Mandela Bay is amongst the country’s most expensive, and there are no guarantees to potential investors that their demands can be met. The cost and capacity of electricity supply is precisely what cost Coega its largest investor, when Rio Tinto scrapped its plans to build a $2,7 billion aluminium smelter, deciding instead to locate it in Canada. This was a tragedy for the Eastern Cape and South Africa.
- The constant litigation between the largest energy consumers in the region and the municipality over the public participation process, and the way in which budgets and tariffs are decided, is testament to the hostile business environment.
- The ANC-led municipality doesn’t seem to grasp that, in order to create jobs, government must create a business-friendly environment.
- The local “tri-partite alliance” in the Metro is still hostage to the outdated and fallacious notion that that being “pro-business” means being “anti-poor”. The truth is quite different. Investment drives job creation, which is essential to lift people out of poverty. Bad governance drives away investment, making poor people poorer.
- The Metro has a R4 billion infrastructure backlog.
- Five years and more than R1 billion later, there is still no sign on the roads of the city’s Integrated Public Transport System (IPTS) buses. The project is so riddled with evidence of large-scale fraud and corruption that the DA has called for an immediate forensic investigation.
- The annual Auditor General Report on local governments gives a pretty good indication of whether a municipality is fit to govern. In the most recent report, Nelson Mandela Bay Metro once again received qualified opinions with findings (Cape Town was the only Metro with a clean audit).
- In the same report, Nelson Mandela Bay recorded an incredible R935 million in irregular expenditure – almost twice the shocking R554 million of the previous year. Nothing sets off the alarm bells for investors like a local government that can’t look after its money.
I don’t know, Helen, somehow or other I think that by you making people realise that they are living in a k*k place you are contributing to people leaving the region which will further frustrate your aim of winning the metro in 2016. Let’s rather hear about how bright and clever we are, how our region is the beating warm heart of all Africans, how we can help you help us and not about how k*k our home is. To paraphrase Chris Maroleng; “Don’t touch me on my home.”
My thanks to Port Elizabeth MP, Andrew Whitfield for the heads up:
— Andrew Whitfield (@andrewhitfield) September 22, 2014
What, in some small way, ‘supports’ my assumptions is that the Retweets of the above are presently all from people outside of the Eastern Cape and Nelson Mandela Bay proving in a highly unscientific way that people outside of our region are the ones enjoying the portrayal of Nelson Mandela Bay as being somewhat lacking!
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