Yesterday, 1 April 2014, saw Mr Mandla Madwara, president of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber, and Mr Kevin Hustler, CEO, honoured to engage with President Jacob Zuma at his official residence in Pretoria, on behalf of business in Nelson Mandela Bay.
This one-hour, one-on-one formal engagement with the State President followed a request on behalf of the Business Chamber Board to the Office of the President. The meeting resulted in President Jacob Zuma himself proposing and making a commitment to visit Nelson Mandela Bay along with a Ministerial delegation, and engage directly and proactively with business, civil society and City leaders within the next three weeks.
This privileged platform provided the Business Chamber leadership with the opportunity to engage directly with the country’s highest office bearer on the chief areas of concern to business and the citizens of Nelson Mandela Bay. The critical city challenges currently being addressed with all spheres of government include concerns about infrastructure and the provision of basic services, the creation of an investment-friendly environment, as well as concerns about governance, organisational stability, and the recognition of an active citizenry in Nelson Mandela Bay.
"The meeting resulted in President Jacob Zuma himself proposing and making a commitment to visit Nelson Mandela Bay ... and engage directly and proactively with business, civil society and City leaders..."
The request emphasised the Chamber’s commitment to fulfilling its role as organised business in partnership with government and civil society to build a better future for all citizens of the region
The engagement included Minister of Economic Development, Ebrahim Patel, and Deputy Minister of Finance, Nhlanhla Nene.
Business Chamber president, Mr Mandla Madwara, provided our hosts with insight into the environment within which business in Nelson Mandela Bay operates, highlighting the city’s experiences with past political instability and administrative meltdown. He stated that, out of necessity over the past year, Civil Society organisations had come together to speak with one voice on issues of key concern, working steadfastly towards the desired outcomes linked to expectations of the Nelson Mandela Bay city leadership.
Thus, he explained, the Nelson Mandela Bay Civil Society Coalition was formed, to ensure that the concerns of business and civil society were heard and taken seriously. This apolitical grouping consists of organisations such as the South African NGO Coalition (Sangoco), the Nelson Mandela Bay Ratepayers Association, the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, the South African Property Owners Association (SAPOA), the Master Builders Association (MBA) and Church Leaders in the city. The Coalition tabled the City Challenges framework, which detailed specific areas of focus agreed to by the members of the coalition in consultation with the Metro.
"... out of necessity over the past year, Civil Society organisations had come together to speak with one voice on issues of key concern..."
This framework was discussed in detail with President Jacob Zuma, focusing on the key focus areas and the coalition’s desired outcomes. The Chamber delegation left the President with the Civil Society Coalition scorecard, as tabulated by the coalition and agreed with the Metro, as a document from which the President’s office and the Ministers can prepare for the planned future engagement in the City.
A considerable amount of time was spent on the issue of the provision of stable political and administrative leadership within the Nelson Mandela Bay Metro.
Also high on the agenda was the taking of remedial action, the introduction of punitive measures based on recommendations from the Kabuso, Pikoli and Auditor General’s reports, and the representation of the Civil Society Coalition on the reconstitution of the audit committee.
In the area of infrastructure, we paid particular attention to the backlog of R4.2 billion in infrastructure spend in Nelson Mandela Bay, focusing predominantly on water and electricity infrastructure, which is experiencing outages, DIPS and total collapses in supply.
We emphasised the importance of relief to high energy users within Nelson Mandela Bay, and the need for the completion of the Nooitgedacht low level water scheme to meet the region’s needs. The housing backlog, and the vital need for the eradication of the bucket system was also discussed.
As organised business, we raised our concerns about investment, with a focus on the strategic projects, specifically Project Mthombo, the Thysspunt Nuclear Power station, and hydraulic fracturing in the Eastern Cape. We are seeking clear guidance from government regarding the timelines of these proposed projects, to enable business to prepare a strategic plan for participation in these major economic opportunities.
Our investment concerns stretched to the upgrade of the Addo Road, which requires R400 million in upgrades to counteract the R60 million in losses suffered by the citrus industry due to the bad state of the road.
"We are seeking clear guidance from government regarding the timelines of these proposed projects, to enable business to prepare a strategic plan for participation in these major economic opportunities."
A key current risk with regards to the catalytic converter industry and the automotive industry as a whole are the strikes on the platinum mines. Nelson Mandela Bay is responsible for 10% of the world’s production of catalytic converters. Platinum is a critical ingredient in the production of catalytic converters and should there be a lack of supply, this could have a catastrophic effect on the automotive industry here and elsewhere in the world should no intervention take place.
In his closing remarks, Mandla Madwara laid emphasis on the fact that Nelson Mandela Bay needs special attention to ensure leadership stability at City Hall, underpinned by the requisite stability of the permanent Municipal Manager and Executive Directors.
As organised business, we would like to see funding unlocked, particularly for infrastructure. The Chamber has previously enjoyed significant engagement with Minister of Public Enterprise, Malusi Gigaba, Deputy Minister of Economic Development, Hlengiwe Mkhize, as well as the MECs for local government and economic development regarding the situation in the Metro. We believe that the city requires a strong turnaround strategy to ensure that there are significant changes within the next two years.
" Nelson Mandela Bay needs special attention to ensure leadership stability at City Hall, underpinned by the requisite stability of the permanent Municipal Manager and Executive Directors."
We believe firmly that Nelson Mandela Bay is well-positioned to join other major Metros in delivering to the National Development Plan. It was noted to President Zuma that two of the Eastern Cape Planning Commissioners – namely Professor Derrick Swartz and Mr David Powels - sit on the Board of the Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber.
The CEO of the Business Chamber, Mr Kevin Hustler, and its Director of Finance and Operations, Mrs Zoe Waters, are actively participating in the workshops of the Eastern Cape Planning Commission, to ensure that relevant business interests are heard, and that solutions are found, focusing on implementable plans towards Vision 2030.
As the Chamber, we have put a significant amount of time towards co-ordinating the efforts of business and civil society towards a competitive and sustainable future for Nelson Mandela Bay.
The Civil Society Coalition scorecard is the result of work done over the last eight to ten months to reflect accurately the specific issues that need attention, not only to increase the confidence of the business community and citizens, but to ensure the future prosperity of our city.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Civil Society Coalition structure is a best practice model that can be shared with other cities around the country. We assured the President that it has readied us to participate in working together with all government role players, to ensure that we yield significant results.
"As the Chamber, we have put a significant amount of time towards co-ordinating the efforts of business and civil society towards a competitive and sustainable future for Nelson Mandela Bay."
In response, the State President proposed that he would visit Nelson Mandela Bay within the course of the next three weeks, along with a select national Ministerial and Administrative delegation, to have a structured and proactive engagement with the leadership of the Civil Society Coalition and the City.
This was supported by Minister Patel and Deputy Minister Nene, and we look forward to a very proactive and engaging consultation in the near future towards the success of our beloved Nelson Mandela Bay.
The Business Chamber is currently waiting for confirmation from the Office of the President regarding the dates of his visit to the City. We will duly co-ordinate our efforts