NELSON Mandela Bay’s new acting economic development boss, Anele Qaba, has stepped up as the man to revive the city’s tourism drawcards, including the iconic Bayworld Museum and Apple Express.
The projects, which already have the backing of the council, have been put on ice for at least five years due to an administration and financial meltdown in 2009-10 and a lack of political will to get them moving.
But since Qaba took over temporarily from former director Zolile Siswana at the beginning of the month, he has shown he is passionate about shifting the focus of his department from poverty alleviation to building the city’s economy.
Qaba has been appointed acting head for three months until a permanent executive director is hired after Siswana’s contract was not renewed.
Qaba has also applied to be the department’s permanent executive director. Should his application be unsuccessful, he will still continue to head the trade and investment sub-directorate.
Qaba was instrumental in bringing the Chinese company FAW’s (First Automobile Works) R600-million truck assembly plant to the city, the expansion of Clover Industries’ PE plant and the development of the Bay West City shopping centre.
The news comes as the municipality is set to launch its Investment Council today to boost trade and investment in the city.
The council, to be made up of several business leaders and a few politicians, will oversee the development projects and ensure they come to fruition.
“I’ve noticed that this department has been reduced to a poverty alleviation department, with us funding food gardens and cooperatives which are not sustainable,” Qaba said.
“There should be a shift in focus. We need to distinguish between local economic development and social development. We must move from dependency on the government and take a decision, even if it is an unpopular one, for the benefit of the city.
“We have a lot of strategists with few implementers, but I am here to make sure we lead those plans as a department,” he said.
Some of the top strategic projects he wants to revive are the Bayworld Museum and Apple Express, the Nelson Mandela freedom statue, the Njoli Square development, Van der Kemp’s Kloof, the Xhosa cultural village, township rejuvenation, the waterfront development, the Bay Stadium precinct development, the Telkom Park redevelopment and the Uitenhage aerodrome.
Although the city’s 2013-14 draft budget is almost ready to be finalised, Qaba is assessing all the projects and events backed by his department to see if there have been any positive spin-offs for the city.
He said he would redirect funds where necessary to ensure there was progress with some of the key projects in the next financial year.
Also, he would be lobbying for funds from national and provincial government, as well as the national lottery fund.
“I will take stock of the progress made to date by the directorate, at least from the past five years. This will help us ascertain whether we are still relevant and still on the right path.
“We cannot continue to throw public funds into black holes where we cannot trace it or show any positive returns on investments made,” he said.
The city’s reputation for hosting big events has taken a knock in recent years, the recent Splash Festival debacle being a case in point. But Qaba has assured residents that bad events are a thing of the past.
To restore the city’s image, he wants to grow the Eastern Cape horse-racing derby to the level of the Durban July.
“We already have provincial buy-in to grow the event and as a city we should support it and get the East Cape Parks and Tourism Department on board.
“We must grow it, bring in the fashion element with the university’s fashion students and we’ll have our own Durban July.”
Qaba said that relocating a Premier Soccer League team to the Bay would be positive for the local economy and financial sustainability of the stadium.
“The foundation was laid a long time ago. We need to build on it and that should not be difficult.
“In the few months that I have been given, I will ensure that the plans for building the economy of this region are at least started,” he said.