Nelson Mandela Bay council a hindrance to economic growth, says Muir

Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber president Andrew Muir says the ruling coalition does not inspire business confidence in the metro
WEAK PARTNER: Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber president Andrew Muir says the ruling coalition does not inspire business confidence in the metro
Image: SUPPLIED

The coalition government in Nelson Mandela Bay does not inspire business confidence but instead is a hindrance to economic growth.

This is the view of Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber president Andrew Muir, who was weighing in on the council’s failure to elect a mayor in 10 months.

The vacancy in the metro has also resulted in National Treasury withholding R1.6bn in crucial grants meant to subsidise the metro’s most destitute residents.

Muir said the city was not a stable partner, particularly, at a time in achieving a pro-business or developmental agenda one that is aimed at growing the economy and improving the region’s outlook for work and investment opportunities.

Based on our ongoing research and engagement with businesses from the local business sector, the current coalition does not meaningfully inspire business confidence in the metro.

In fact, in many instances, this municipality appears to have become a hindrance to economic growth; paralysed by inefficiencies and a pervasive lack of accountability, a clear result of political infighting and a lack of administrative oversight, Muir said.

Since the ousting of UDM councillor Mongameli Bobani as mayor through a no-confidence motion in December, deputy mayor Thsonono Buyeye has been acting in the position.

Though the Treasury has flagged this as one of the reasons for grants being withheld, the item on the appointment of a new mayor has yet to appear on the council’s agenda.

For the past 10 months, rundown infrastructure has left many communities without water for days on end, the number of potholes has increased and electricity disruptions have become the norm.

The metro is sitting with more than 700km of gravel roads, which it hopes to eradicate through the building of plastic roads and also more than 6,000 water leaks.

Muir said while many parts of the country and the world had experienced extensive cuts to economic activity and employment as a result of restrictive lockdowns, the metro was facing an exceptionally dire position.

In comparison to every other metropole in the country, the Bay has seen the biggest drop in the size of its employed workforce over a 5½-year period (in percentage terms).

The lack of action and accountability by the municipality on various high-priority issues such as prolonged water shortages, maintenance  and cleanliness make it very difficult for the city to attract and retain investment in high-impact infrastructure development projects or in labour-intensive exporting industries such as agro-processing and tourism, he said.

The Treasury has yet to pay out an equitable share allocation of R498m — most of which is meant to subsidise the Bay’s most destitute residents — and R342m worth of grants for the 2020/2021 financial year, which started on July 1.

The next scheduled payment — of R79,000 — is due for release on October 23 for the Bay’s Integrated Public Transport System (IPTS).

The Treasury initially decided to withdraw the funds because the metro had failed to act on a report on a forensic investigation into the IPTS about three years ago, which uncovered evidence of alleged large-scale corruption and wastage of millions of rand.

Muir criticised the city for what he said was its continued dysfunction as proper service delivery would assist local businesses and workers to better withstand and recover more swiftly from the economic fallout of Covid-19 and lockdown.

Furthermore, the repeated offers from our members to voluntarily assist the metro with various pressing issues such as leak repairs or expertise remain unanswered, he said.

The business chamber will be hosting a webinar on water on Thursday with the municipality also part of the panel.

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