The price of populism

Workers from the Nelson Mandela Metro Safety and Security Directorate protested outside the City Hall on Tuesday. They marched from Mount road to City Hall where they handed over a memorandum to the petitions officer.
Workers from the Nelson Mandela Metro Safety and Security Directorate protested outside the City Hall on Tuesday. They marched from Mount road to City Hall where they handed over a memorandum to the petitions officer.
Image: Werner Hills,

“The budget and treasury department must broaden their capacity of creativity around the issue of finance.”

This is what Nelson Mandela Bay’s political head of corporate services, Makhi Feni, said in October 2018 when it became apparent that the move to insource contract security was costing tens of millions of rand more than anticipated.

When the council decided the year prior to insource 460 security from private firms, it was introduced through a motion by the EFF and adopted by popular vote with no regard for the financial implications of that decision.

The thought process was to insource the security and use the money it was paying to contract security firms to pay the new staff.

It sounded simple enough, but the city soon discovered that it would be more costly as uniforms had to be provided and many of the guards needed training.

Despite the financial pitfalls, it still went on to hire an additional 212 guards.

This pushed up the city’s salary bill and left the bean counters scrambling around for money to implement what has proven to be a very costly council decision.

The problems have not ended there.

On Tuesday, about 70 of the newly insourced guards marched to City Hall demanding more money.

They want their grades increased and they want housing and standby allowances, saying they are getting paid R6,000 less than other security guards.

While they make a valid argument for unfair treatment, it must be noted that when they were insourced, there were misgivings about whether or not all the staff had the capacity to do the job.

Since they were hired, our city is not safer and its assets continue to be destroyed by vandals.

Them being insourced by the municipality has made no visible difference where it matters most.

But this is, sadly, the price the city has to pay for populist decisions.

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