City leaders open dialogue

Mkhululi Ndamase THE Nelson Mandela Bay municipal council, organised business and civil society leaders have made up after earlier calls for Local Government MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane to dissolve the council. At a closed meeting at Pine Lodge resort in Port Elizabeth yesterday senior councillors, business, NGOs, religious, heritage and culture leaders agreed to form a stronger partnership to address the city's leadership crisis. The city's ratepayers' association, however, was less enthusiastic, with chairman Kobus Gerber saying all they heard at the meeting were excuses. The talks focused on filling managerial positions in the municipality which deputy mayor Chippa Ngcolomba promised at a media briefing would be done by the end of next month. Up for discussion was also how the city would partner with the groups to fight rampant corruption which has severely compromised services in the metro. As a major bone of contention among organised business, the city is also under pressure to come up with a feasible plan to help high energy users – who are some of the Bay's biggest employers – remain in business and competitive. The city is also hoping for input from organised business leaders on how to tackle crumbling infrastructure. The leaders agreed on the importance of involving civil society in decision-making processes. The groups were for the better part of last year at loggerheads with municipal bosses over the instability in the metro. The groups were also vocal about the resignation of then city manager Lindiwe Msengana-Ndlela, who resigned citing undue political pressure from mayor Ben Fihla and Ngcolomba. As a result the ratepayers' association threatened to withdraw from paying rates and taxes if the city was not stabilised. In an interview, Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber president Mandla Madwara said he was happy with how the meeting went. "We have a consensus we are going to meet at least every quarter, something we didn't have before. "We appreciate this opportunity of spending a few hours discussing the robust issues because that's the only way to go," Madwara said. "Things have to change in order to turn around the city and make sure it is corruption-free, a leadership is appointed so work can start and decisions are taken," he said. It was also agreed civil society and business would attend portfolio committee meetings so as to be part of the decision-making process. Ngcolomba said they were well on track in appointing executive directors. "We have interviewed the executive director for infrastructure. We were supposed today to interview the economic development, the sports and recreation and other portfolios [executive directors] but because of the importance of this meeting, we had to move that one to the 6th." Religious leader Neville Goldman said: "The value system must generate itself from the top, from government, into the grassroots and into Grade R classes. When it comes to us dealing with moral issues, we can't deal with moral issues only trying to get our parents to look after our children, but we need to deal with governance that shows clean governance from the top." The next meeting between the parties to assess progress is expected to be in May.