Reversing urban decay will unlock potential in CBDs of Gqeberha, Kariega


 The original and founding mandate of the Mandela Bay Development Agency can be traced from 2003, as a response to urban decay that was precipitated by the global economic crisis which resulted in capital flight and abandonment of inner cities.

With businesses moving out, crime and grime moved in.

Credit must be given to those at the helm of the city, stalwarts such as then mayor Nceba Faku, for pioneering the establishment of a development agency model along with the Industrial Development Corporation (IDC).

The joint initiative with the IDC led to the establishment of the MBDA.

For several years, the CBDs were given due attention and the transformation was accelerated by the advent of the 2010 Fifa World Cup.

Fast forward to 2022, most of the developments have significantly lost their shine and attraction.

The withdrawal of security funding and mandate creep all played a role in the rapid decline from those earlier gains.

It is nearly a year since I joined the MBDA and from the outset I was clear, the entity needs to return to basics on urban area management and pursue long-delayed game-changing capital programmes.

The funding challenges we faced delayed most of this work as we could not procure the services and personnel required.

In May, two significant developments happened.

The first was an expression of interest briefing to potential investors for the development of an International Convention Centre as part of the broader Bayworld Programme/Telkom Park development.

The second was the launch of an accelerated urban cleanup programme, a much-needed job creation programme that saw more than 6,000 apply.

The expression of interest, which has a stringent criterion for potential bidders, requiring extensive experience in championing large-scale developments, had an encouraging response, with receipt from more than 40 potential developers.

The process to finalise this aspect of work is under way and an item for council will outline the investment appetite and proposed transactional models towards achieving the first ICC for the Bay.

As for the urban cleanup campaign, 206 recruits can be seen all around the Bay and, so far, the feedback has been encouraging.

Many stakeholders have commented on how clean and safe the inner cities appear to be — and this is only two weeks into the programme.

I am confident that this approach will be a model for our shareholder to emulate and expand.

The workers will be placed at strategic areas and will provide the necessary services required to maintain clean and liveable spaces, with the Kariega CBD receiving 75 workers, North End around the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium 25 and the Gqeberha CBD and Central 100.

Because of the flooding, the MBDA was quick to redirect this resource to support mop-up operations in Kariega.

The devastating floods have cause serious damage to public infrastructure, including areas previously developed by the MBDA such as Market Square.

Our teams are hard at work attending to these challenges, including the repairs required at the Nelson Mandela Bay Science and Technology Centre.

These two initiatives demonstrate our willingness to walk the talk.

The MBDA is getting back to basics, listening to stakeholders, collaborating with other civil society formations and making a dent in urban decay.

Also related to urban decay is the issue of land invasion, which halts development and discourages investment.

This week, we held a briefing with potential bidders who will be tasked with dealing with this sensitive matter with dignity and diligence.

Public spaces are not for dwellings, the challenge requires a holistic approach and psychosocial interventions by competent authorities are necessary.

The overarching objective is to prevent, contain and reverse land invasion within MBDA-mandate areas, heritage and tourism sites.

Once appointed, the panel of service providers will assist with the relocation of families throughout the municipality.

The panel will also assist in the process to evict illegal building and land occupants in MBDA-mandate areas.

The MBDA has recognised that its mandate areas may be affected by illegal occupations of land and buildings by vagrants.

This is because of the municipality being at the heart of the economy of the Bay and the Eastern Cape.

The mandate areas managed by the MBDA are key economic nodes with significant contributions to the local, regional and national fiscus.

Since the dawn of democracy, the MBDA-mandate areas and other NMBM areas have experienced rapid urbanisation, increased demand for housing and work opportunities, and this has created a challenge of lack of adequate housing near work opportunities.

All of this has created a major challenge for the metro in that when opportunities are not realised, some resort to illegal occupation of property in the priority precincts and others who are unfortunate are relegated to living in slums and the periphery of the city in informal settlements.

The need for housing the poor and displaced persons near work opportunities has resulted in the creation of slums in city nodes and informality in the form of informal settlements.

All these initiatives are laying the groundwork for the work ahead in turning our CBDs into centres of growth and opportunity.

Anele Qaba — MBDA  chief executive



Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.