State of the Kouga Municipality speech – Kouga councillors dress up for red carpet event

Address by Kouga’s Executive Mayor at the official opening of Council (3/4/12):

“Madam Speaker,

This year marks the centenary celebrations of the ruling party, the African National Congress, the party of which I am a member. Although it is a rich history on which I reflect, it is also a history of racism, sexism, dehumanisation and separate development. Through sacrifice and severe hardship, we were able to overcome these injustices, and I would like to dedicate this occasion to all who made sacrifices or lost their lives in the struggle, as well as to everyone who contributed to our country’s liberation in whatever small measure.

Kouga's Executive Mayor, Booi Koerat

The first national freedom elections of 27 April 1994 was a momentous event and came as a great beacon of hope to millions of deprived South Africans. It was a joyous dawn that ended their long night of oppression, injustice and discrimination. It also came as a daybreak for basic services to all, economic freedom and access to land.

Now, 18 years later, we can count the milestones reached in our efforts to achieve our dream of total freedom – the promise that all men and women, black and white, would be guaranteed the “unalienable rights” of “Life,Libertyand the Pursuit of Happiness”.

Although the pace is still slow, we remain committed to that dream. But we cannot achieve that dream alone. We must take hands to push back the frontiers of poverty. Instead of marching for services, we should be walking together. All people of this area must come together in unity to achieve the rights to which all of us are entitled.

Clr Bulelwa Koliti and her partner, Vusumzi Peter

I promise you, we will not, we cannot turn back on our promises. We are well aware of the frustrations of the Kouga people. We do not deny the shortcomings, but what we need is to move forward. We cannot remain static. We cannot regress. Whatever the difficulties, we must advance towards a future where the quality of people’s lives are constantly being improved.

Before I discuss the state of Kouga, I need to say that we made a mistake by thinking that we could live in a cocoon simply because we are a relatively small municipality. We were also wrong to think that we were immune to the global economy. The world economy is in an even worst position than it was before and the recession has definitely affected Kouga as well.

State of Kouga

Demographers claim that Kouga’s population is growing at a rate of 2,8%. Unemployment is put at approximately 29,7% of the 51 837 economically-active population, which is higher than the 26% figure of 2007.

Unemployment has been getting worse because formal economies such as fishing and mining have been shedding jobs. Many workers have been retrenched and are now jobless. Furthermore, every year thousands of new job seekers, the vast majority of them youth, join the multitude of unemployed.

LED and Tourism acting director Tabisa Woni, Makana Mayor Zamuxolo Peter, Clr Bulelwa Koliti and Mzingisi vice-principal Thembi Vumazonke.dressed specially for this red carpet event.

Employment depends mainly on the tertiary sector that contributes about 57% of the total economy, whilst secondary and primary sectors contribute about 20,6% and 22,4 % respectively. It is worth noting that Kouga has a growing fixed capital stock compared with other municipalities in the Cacadu district. This stock has been growing exponentially and is now at 25%, compared to 17% in 1996.

When one looks at local education levels, it is clear that this has been a contributing factor to unemployment. About 87% of Kouga’s population is of school-going age. Of this group about 2% have post graduate degrees, approximately 2% have degrees, 3% have diplomas and 12 % have matric. These statistics also help to explain why HIV/Aids-related deaths are increasing and why crime remains a problem.

Clr Zolani Mayoni, of Oyster Bay, and Skills manager Vivian Blouw

Key Challenges

Road infrastructure, including storm water drainage, sport and recreation facilities, water and sanitation, human settlement commonages and access to electricity have been identified as key issues by communities

Among the challenges we are experiencing, is a lack of effective land-use management to redress imbalances and address poverty and unemployment in a sustainable manner that allows for prosperous growth. We still have rural areas with struggling economies and infrastructure that augment poverty. They are not strategically linked to lucrative development nodes.

Municipal Manager Sidney Fadi, and Mzingisi vice-principal, Thembi Vumazonke

Unlocking access to strategic pieces of land, establishing solid partnerships for rural development and land reform, and linking rural nodes with economic hubs so that rural areas can be transformed into thriving economic nodes is, therefore, a priority for Kouga. It is our intention to build a sustainable economy that will increase the availability of decent employment and alleviate poverty.

We realise and acknowledge that extra effort has to be put into building a better and more responsive governance. The democratisation of the state and society, as well as the diversification of the institution, are central to ensuring that communities are the focal point of development.

Bulk infrastructure capacity, its maintenance and upgrade is a serious concern for Kouga. Technically the capacity is either depleted, with no life span, or it is inadequate to meet the existing demand and accommodate new developments.

Speaker, Magdalene Dlomo, and Tourism portfolio councillor, Virginia Camealio-Benjamin,

Kouga is often referred to as the “Eastern Cape Johannesburg” because of the high influx of indigent migrants who come to this area looking for work. Yet, there is no sustainable strategy to handle this influx despite it putting additional pressure on the existing infrastructure and escalating housing challenges.

One of the challenges in the past was that the municipality’s annual budgets were not aligned to the needs and demands of Kouga’s people, as set out in the Integrated Development Plan. Furthermore, past budgets to implement IDP capital projects showed an 82% dependence on internal reserves and the sale of immovable capital assets, which were never realised.

LED and Tourism acting director, Tabisa Woni ,and Waste manager, Gcobisa Dadamasi

Insufficient staff capacity has also had an impact on service delivery. It is essential that skills development is aligned to service delivery needs, otherwise skills development will not lead us to our intended destination.

I am proud to announce that the Council has formulated a new shared vision for our journey forward towards 2030. This vision is:

Kouga – a safe, equitable and harmonious home, with prosperous and sustainable livelihoods for all our people.

Coupled to this, is our new mission statement:

To create a better life for our people by providing effective and efficient service delivery, enabling the sustainable harnessing of our environmental assets, supported by inclusive governance and stakeholder participation, derived from the shared values of our people and legislated mandate.

Our value system instructs us to be honest, transparent, accountable, people-centred, professional, consistent, accessible and equitable. The focus is on putting people first. This value chain must become part and parcel of all municipal councillors and officials.

During this five-year term our strategic goal is to provide quality municipal infrastructure and social services. These will be improved continuously to meet community needs and to enable Kouga’s people to fulfil their aspirations. Efforts to ensure maintenance, rehabilitation and the expansion of basic, economic and ecologically-friendly infrastructure are a priority focus.

Of course, we cannot ignore our local economy because this impacts directly on improved livelihoods. We will, therefore, embark on endeavours that have the potential to grow an inclusive economy for decent employment and poverty reduction. This will be achieved by creating an enabling environment for lucrative trade and investment, and by facilitating support for local enterprises and cooperatives.

Rural communities are our priority. We intend to facilitate the development of sustainable, vibrant and equitable economic rural communities. Agrarian reforms and land-tenure reforms will be fast-tracked by building agri-villages with sustainable access to affordable and diverse foods.

Looking at our strengths, it is also clear that we can reap additional economic benefits by capitalising on the quality and innovation displayed by local people in sports and creative industries such as arts, culture and heritage. By developing this sector, Kouga can turn itself into a globally-competitive tourism destination.

We will never achieve the above if we don’t focus on our team. We are, therefore, in the process of building a municipal administration that is financially viable, professional, people-centred, developmental, transparent and accountable to our people. We want to create an effective local government system with improved institutional performance, accelerated institutional transformation, increased skills capacity, and stronger monitoring and evaluation. We also want to ensure that spatial development takes place in an environmentally-sustainable manner.

As a flagship of the national Municipal Infrastructure Support Agency (MISA) programme, we are also looking forward to the opportunities this will bring. With the assistance of government and the private sector, we can do more.

You might say that five years is not a long time – how will all this be realised?

We intend to be smart and to achieve the above through integrated planning and sound management practices across the municipality’s directorates, as I will outline in the remainder of this address.

Good governance and public participation

The Kouga Council is committed to creating an enabling environment for active public participation and an administrative culture characterised by accountability, efficiency and transparency.

Following the 2011 local government election, residents have enjoyed closer access to their ward councillors thanks to the number of wards in Kouga increasing from ten (10) to fifteen (15).

As the elected representatives of communities, ward councillors are the most important link between residents and Council. The Office of the Speaker is currently establishing ward councillor’s offices in all wards to ensure that residents know how to reach their elected Council representatives. Seventy (70) percent of the process has been completed, including the appointment of ward secretaries at the offices to improve customer care.

Ward committees have also been established in all 15 wards to strengthen communication between communities, ward councillors, the municipal administration and Council. An effective Council is one that listens to its people, and the ward committees will play a critical role in ensuring that Council hears what Kouga’s people are saying. The ward committees attended an orientation course in October 2011 to prepare them for their role in enhancing interaction between residents and Council.

Kouga’s new Council, which consists of 29 councillors in total, was inducted in June 2011. It was with regret that we have since had to say farewell to two PR councillors – Clrs Zenzile Blouw and Clive Njela resigned due to other commitments. While they will be missed, we are fortunate that their places have been filled by two seasoned community leaders, namely, Clrs Daphne Kettledas and Juline Prinsloo.

Key to a sound administration is effective leadership. To this end the new Council appointed a new Municipal Manager, Mr Sidney Fadi, in March 2012. All other Section 57 vacancies have been advertised and Council is finalising the appointments. As a Council, we would like to thank the managers who have been acting as directors during this time of transformation.

The municipality has in its fold many excellent officials and workers, as reflected by the Vuna Award we received for our overall performance in February 2012. Kouga was also recently named one of the top 30 local municipalities inSouth Africaby Municipal IQ.

Kouga has the potential, however, to perform even better. Hence, the directorates and staff are being restructured through Section 189 (A) of the Labour Relations Act to bring the municipality’s operations closer in line with the needs of communities. The purpose of this process is to maximise the effectiveness and efficiency of staff so that excessive staff-related costs, including overtime, are reduced and more funds can be put towards service delivery and infrastructure development.

Due to a delay in completing the 2009/2010 Oversight Report, the new Council inherited the responsibility of compiling this report. Our gratitude goes to the Oversight Committee, chaired by Cllr Earl Hill, for their admirable handling of the task. The Oversight role will in future be handled by the new Municipal Public Accounts Committee (MPAC) that was established at the end of 2011 with the purpose of improving accountability.

Clear and realistic policies are another foundation stone of good governance. Council is engaged in an ongoing process to review, update and adopt the policies that guide the institution in its drive to uplift communities, so that all stakeholders will be clear about what is expected from them.

One of the challenges facing the municipality is a lack of office accommodation. The Directorate Administration, Monitoring and Evaluation, is exploring solutions. New offices for our Human Settlements section are already nearing completion at the Humansdorp Country Club.

Also a priority is the need for a bigger Council chamber. The current chamber is too small to seat councillors, officials and the public comfortably at Council meetings. Despite this challenge, regular Council, Mayoral Committee and Standing Committee meetings have been held over the past ten months.

In an effort to boost transparency the Council would like to encourage the public to attend Council meetings. To ensure all communities of Kouga has the opportunity to witness local government in action, Council meetings will not only be held atJeffreysBaybut in other Kouga towns as well.

As the government sphere closest to the people, municipalities play an important role in assisting all spheres of government to communicate effectively with stakeholders. Therefore, the municipality has been updating its public participation policy, communication policy and strategy, in line with the policies and strategies of our district municipality, Cacadu, and the provincial and national governments.

As part of this strategy, the Intergovernmental Relations Forum will be revived so that the local programmes of all three spheres of government can be synchronised for maximum effect. Recent intergovernmental successes have included the municipality making land available for key government projects such as the Sarah Bartmann Centre of Remebrance at Hankey, a new police station at St Francis Bay, a new primary school for Sea Vista, a high school forJeffreysBayand improved police barracks at Hankey.

Council will further be building on existing and new communication platforms. These platforms include public meetings and outreaches, the Access to Information process, the municipal newsletter, website and social networking sites. This year will also see the launch of the highly-anticipated community radio station Kouga FM, which will help to keep residents informed of municipal programmes, processes and policies.

Customer Care is a focal point of the new administration. A pilot Customer Satisfaction Survey, aimed at identifying priority issues, was completed recently and the results will be submitted to Council in April. The survey will be conducted annually to assist the municipality with planning.

Social Services

The Social Services Directorate is the directorate nearest to the people and we would like to ensure that they deliver in line with the national mandate.

The directorate has been able to achieve a 95% household refuse collection rate in all formal settlements, consisting in total of about 19 000 households. We have issued black bags to all these settlements except three wards. This problem came to our attention in early January. I do not know why, but there are wards for which black bags were not budgeted in 2011/2012. From July this year black bags will, however, be distributed to all wards.

Proper waste management has been neglected because of a shortage of machinery. Upon investigation it was found that some machinery had been standing at repair shops for longer than a year.  We were severely hampered by this.

In our turn-around strategy, all these vehicles –12 in total, which is a lot for a municipality of our size – will be operational by the end of April.  This includes the compactor trucks which should reverse the situation of black bags being allowed to stand overnight on our sidewalks.

When it comes to our cemeteries, we need to show respect for our dead.  We know the condition of our cemeteries and the need for additional space.  The need for space is so critical that an application for exemption from the EIA processes has been forwarded to the provincial Department of Environmental Affairs.

We further anticipate that forty (40) new jobs will be created in all the towns for the cleansing of cemeteries through the EPWP program.

The Parks and Recreation section has for long been the step-child of the Directorate Social Services.  In March 2012, however, the Mayoral Committee resolved that a scientific analysis of halls and recreational facilities must be undertaken to solicit funds to upgrade and build new facilities.  These plans are due for submission before the end of April 2012.

The maintenance of parks and sportsfields has received a boost, with our decision to buy equipment to the value of R800 000. The first consignment was delivered in March 2012. The appointment of caretakers to prevent further deterioration of sport facilities is also a priority for the new year.

One of our greatest concerns is the mushrooming of spaza shops and funeral parlours. Unlicensed shops and businesses cannot be properly policed without applicable licences.  An audit was done of all these traders and exemption was given in order for them to get the necessary permits.  However, the health of communities may be at risk and, as from May 2012, there will be a co-ordinated clampdown by all law enforcement agencies on illegal businesses.

Plot clearing is one of the headaches of the Social Services Directorate. The Health department is in the process of establishing their own plot-clearing section.  Twenty (20) temporary jobs will be created through this endeavour that will be operational by May 2012.

Water quality has been a constant challenge. At one stage we felt that we were going to drown in insurmountable water-quality problems. Fortunately, the provincial Department of Water Affairs came to our rescue with the Blue Drop programme.  This programme involves constant monitoring and sample testing that ensures our drinking water complies with national standards and is safe for human consumption.

HIV/Aids is another matter that requires urgent attention. Our people are dying.  Instead of children burying their parents, parents are burying their children.  We are building a society of orphans. In an aim to intensify the fight against HIV/Aids we have transferred the Aids co-ordinator to the Health department so that a more integrated approach can be adopted towards this scourge.  This section will be bolstered by more personnel. We also call upon young people to live a healthy and responsible life.

There is good news for our libraries. Kouga will be taking full control of its libraries and a service level agreement with the provincial Department of Sports, Arts and Culture will be concluded before the end of May 2012.

Library equipment to improve the service to all communities has been budgeted for. More than R1,2m will be spent. The first consignment of equipment to modernise the libraries to the amount of R487 000 has been put out for tender. In our endeavour to serve all our communities a temporary structure will be erected in Thornhill so that residents there will also have access to a library.

Disaster Management has for the first time been given proper consideration in the draft budget. The floods of July 2011 compelled us to make provision for the poor who suffer the most during disasters.

TheGamtoosValleyhas never had a proper fire station.  The tender advertisement for the building of a fire station in Hankey, to the value of R1-million, will go out in  April 2012. Permanent job opportunities for six firemen will be created through the building of the fire station.

Infrastructure, Planning and Development

Allow me to outline the objective of our main service delivery directorate. The Infrastructure, Planning and Development Directorate plays a pivotal role in the progressive realization and rendering of basic infrastructure planning, development and sustainable human settlements in an orderly manner for its residents.

The challenge facing this directorate is how to deliver efficient, effective and sustainable services to all within a context of inadequate financial and human resources.

It has become increasingly difficult and important for municipalities to look for innovative, alternative and creative ways of delivering quality services over a short period of time while at the same time maintaining financially viable systems over the long term.

The consolidation of the directorates responsible for Technical Services, Planning, Development and Human Settlements was one of the key strategic decisions that were taken to re-align our efforts to accelerate service delivery at a reduced cost.

The key performance areas of the newly-established directorate will immensely improve by synchronising basic services, spatial planning, land-use and the provision of sustainable and affordable human settlements.

With the adoption of the Draft Integrated Development Plan for 2012 to 2017, the emphasis will be on the following critical aspects:

* The drafting of a new Spatial Development Framework which will incorporate the 15 municipal wards and the mandate of the new Council.

* Strategies to address stormwater, sanitation, water, roads, electricity and environmental authorization challenges to implement critical projects.

* The establishment of an Industrial Zone (IDZ) to generate creative and sustainable opportunities for the unemployed and new business entrepreneurs.

2011 and 2012 was a year full of challenges. The only way to ensure an integrated commitment is to give effect to the “single window of co-ordination” approach.

The development of strong and solid infrastructure will alleviate a lot of the pressure facing potential developers and the needy 14 000 homeless people of this municipality.

Hence, we will strive to benefit from the budget allocation that was made to the Province of theEastern Capeas part of the MISA programme. We are honoured to be the only municipality in the Cacadu district to be accommodated in this national programme, aimed at ensuring infrastructure development and maintenance.

We are also very active in the district-wide infrastructure forum where our aim is to place our shortcomings and challenges in the correct context. This, in turn, will promote better communication and access to funds for adequate infrastructure development.

Financial viability and management

It is no secret that the new Kouga Council inherited tremendous financial challenges when we came into power 10 months ago. At the time rumours abounded that the municipality was on the verge of bankruptcy.

Our first order of business, therefore, was to get to the bottom of the municipality’s financial situation and to separate the rumours from the facts.

What we discovered, was far worse than any of us had imagined. The municipality was faced with serious cash-flow problems, mainly due to declining collection rates, historic expenditure patterns and a general lack of “doing business smarter”.

Today I am proud to report that the new Council has, over the past ten months, slowly but surely been turning this situation around. A full Financial Recovery Plan was compiled and is being implemented by the administration and its new Municipal Manager.

A key aspect of the plan is the Financial Recovery Steering Committee. This committee has been working closely with the Finance Standing Committee, the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) and INCA to monitor the municipality’s income and expenditure. The aim is to ensure that the municipality’s funds are managed in such a way that a full financial recovery can be made.

Thanks to the measures that have been implemented, the municipality has already reduced its creditors by R20-million since June 2011. Even though there are still some challenges when it comes to paying creditors within 30 days as required by the Municipal Finance Management Act, the situation has improved significantly.

The loans with INCA have been restructured and the loan repayment conditions are being adhered to. We are also busy restructuring the DBSA loan.

What our early investigations showed, was that the municipality’s collection rate had declined significantly from 2006 to 2011. This was one of the main contributors to the institution’s financial difficulties, with debtors owing the municipality about R110-million for rates and services.

The new Council has introduced new systems and controls to collect these monies. As a result, we are seeing a monthly decrease in the debt owed to the municipality by residents and ratepayers. It is envisaged that law enforcement officers and a team of lawyers within the institution will also be utilised in the collection of outstanding debt.

The draft operating and expenditure budget for 2012/2013 was approved by the Kouga Council last week. The public participation process will start on April 10 to allow residents the opportunity to comment on the draft budget and IDP. The draft operating budget amounts to R517-million and the draft capital budget to R35-million.

Input received from the public, as well as from councillors who will be workshopping the draft budget, will be accommodated as far as is possible in the final budget, to be tabled before the end of May.

One of Council’s main concerns is the high staff-related costs. Even though staff costs amount to only 37% of the budget, it amounts to almost 50%  of the monthly cash flow due to non-payment by residents and ratepayers. Overtime, in particular, is still too high and measures are being put in place to eliminate all overtime. We further envisage filling critical vacancies from the internal pool of employees where possible.

Another matter of concern has been the disclaimer that the municipality received from the Office of the Auditor-General for the 2010/2011 financial year. A detailed action plan is currently being drafted to turn the situation around. The short and medium-term goal is to improve the audit opinion as follows:

* 2011/2012 financial year: Qualified opinion

* 2012/2013 financial year: Unqualified opinion

* 2013/2014 financial year: Clean audit opinion.

Conclusion

Former President Thabo Mbeki said: “The future is formed and derives its first impulse in the womb of the present”. Therefore let us all roll up our sleeves today and work together to build the future – resilient, sustainable and liveable communities.”

All articles written, all photos taken, plus all adverts designed, by the Editor and printed in the St Francis Chronicle are protected by Copyright.  Reproduction or copying of any part of the contents of this newspaper and its concept and design can only be done with the Editor’s written permission.

 

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