South Africa

STATE OF THE METRO

Nelson Mandela Bay — DA points to a a city that’s R9bn in debt, with 20,000 potholes and 5,500 sewage blockages

Nelson Mandela Bay — DA points to a a city that’s R9bn in debt, with 20,000 potholes and 5,500 sewage blockages
DA mayoral candidate Retief Odendaal and some of his fellow councillors discussing the latest developments with city manager Noxolo Nqwazi. (Photo: Deon Ferreira)

The DA has delivered its own ‘State of the Metro Address’ for Nelson Mandela Bay, after Executive Mayor Eugene Johnson failed to deliver one, with the party’s mayoral candidate, Retief Odendaal, giving a damning assessment of service delivery failure and maladministration under Johnson and the ANC-led coalition government.

Following a shambolic city council meeting where the ANC and a few smaller parties failed to arrive as a motion was on the agenda to bring a vote of no confidence against the Nelson Mandela Bay executive mayor, the Democratic Alliance’s mayoral candidate for the metro, Retief Odendaal, on Thursday delivered his own “State of the Metro Address”. 

So far, the metro’s executive mayor, Eugene Johnson, has failed to deliver one — although her spokesperson said the speech she gave when she was elected as mayor in November 2021 was a State of the Metro Address. 

“Over the last 30 days, I have spent much of my time experiencing the day-to-day lives of the people of our complex and diverse city,” said Odendaal.

“I know, just as many of you do, that our metro is broken. What has shocked me to my core is the fact that the people of our metro have given up almost all hope of being able to fix the city. 

“From poor households that have been deprived of free basic services for months and forced to steal electricity, to developers being unable to facilitate new investment through the metro — the current Nelson Mandela Bay administration is clearly one with a closed-door policy. An inept, dysfunctional and uncaring municipality that works for no one. 

“There has been no State of the Metro Address by the current executive mayor, notwithstanding the fact that she has been in office for nearly 10 months. Perhaps because she knows all too well how broken the city has become.” 

Odendaal said the city currently had more than 20,000 potholes and 5,500 sewage blockages. Its housing programme had ground to a halt and in the past financial year the metro managed to build a meagre 28 houses. In the previous year, only 27 were built.  

“We also need to make serviced land available to beneficiaries to construct their own dwellings. We need to partner with the private sector to ensure that we can deliver affordable housing that can accommodate the gap market. 

“In addition, it is time that we start looking at converting empty high-rise buildings in the CBD into affordable housing solutions.” 

Odendaal said other large problems in the metro included:  

  • It has racked up its highest amount of debt at R9-billion;
  • It has the lowest capital expenditure on record (76%);
  • It has the slowest repayment rate of municipal creditors on record at 72 days;
  • It has the lowest collection rate on record at 75.67%;
  • It has the lowest number of indigent households being serviced over the past decade (54,630);
  • It has the highest non-technical electricity losses on record (17.5%);
  • It has the highest number of outstanding town planning amendments (more than 400);
  • It has a record 20,000 potholes that need to be fixed and more than 5,500 sewage blockages that must be cleared; and
  • The municipality only reached 25% of its key performance indicators in terms of service delivery.

Supply chain chaos

Speaking about the metro’s finances, Odendaal said: “The chaos in the supply chain creates the perfect environment for looting and that is why it is in the interest of corrupt politicians and municipal officials that it’s not fixed.” 

Fixing the finances is not difficult, he said. “Don’t steal the money; get value for money. Make sure that those that owe you money, pay you.” 

The DA is part of a multiparty coalition that is attempting to take control of the metro’s government. Odendaal said the drought remained the biggest crisis in the metro, with massive water losses not being addressed properly. 

He said maladministration had cost the metro R183-million in lost drought mitigation grant funding, while another R57-million, from the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to upgrade crucial pump infrastructure in the metro, was at risk. 

“It is likely that we will forfeit at least half of this funding,” he said. “It is of course possible to fix this water mess. It just requires leadership and planning. 

“Every river in the city is heavily polluted. Partially treated sewage is currently pouring into the Swartkops River daily, and sewerage overflows are rendering the Baakens, Chatty and Papenkuils rivers unfit for human contact. 

“Non-compliant effluent is also discharged into our coastal waters on a 24-hour basis. The metro has recently received a R2.5-million fine for this irresponsible action, which is not just an environmental disaster, but one which could potentially put lives at risk. 

“Illegal dumping and uncontrolled littering resulted in the metro being labelled ‘filthy’ by residents. Public Health’s Waste Management sub-directorate has a 41.5% vacancy rate and average fleet availability of 38%. 

“Creating a healthy environment for residents should be top priority for any government. There is no reason why we cannot avail the monthly water samples to the public via the municipal dashboard. The administration must be equipped so that it can keep to the legislative time frames of a 24-hour turnaround time on a sewage spill or blockage.” 

He said, “rampant vandalism and theft of municipal assets remain out of control”, as there was no dedicated response unit to combat vandalism and theft. 

“An anti-vandalism unit must be equipped to deal with the scourge of vandalism of municipal assets. This unit must also involve our community so that we can  start taking ownership of our community assets.” 

In the latest audit of the metro’s books, the Auditor-General highlighted massive water losses, totalling R217-million, and electricity losses of R651-million. 

The urban settlement development grant had an unspent portion amounting to R175.1-million. The total amount of grant funding lost in the 2020/21 financial year was R320-million and there was R1.4-billion in irregular expenditure. 


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High unemployment rate

Other problems in the metro highlighted by Odendaal included that it has one of the highest unemployment rates in the country, especially among young people; it has little or no economic growth, unfavourable investment conditions and its tourism industry is struggling. 

“Nelson Mandela Bay is considered the motor industry capital of South Africa. It is of crucial importance that we ensure that the large motor manufacturers and their suppliers are not hamstrung by infrastructure failures and that the metro has a reliable supply of water and electricity. 

“What the people of NMB are asking for is not impossible; all they want is the ability to live in a clean and safe environment, one where they have access to opportunities and a future for their children.” 

Johnson’s spokesperson, Tango Lamani, said the purpose of a State of the Metro Address is for the mayor to inform the residents of their vision and of the service delivery plans of their government.  

“The mayor did that during her inaugural speech where she outlined the vision and plans of the government of local unity. Where was the DA during that inaugural address, were they sleeping in council? I will appreciate it if we can talk about service delivery issues, challenges faced by our people and what the mayor is doing on a daily basis to improve the lives of the poor, of the poorest,” he said. 

The issues in the metro were largely acknowledged by the former MEC for cooperative governance and traditional affairs, Xolile Nqatha, in a letter in which he set out his plans to change the structure of the municipality to one with a collective multiparty executive with a ward participatory system. This was universally resisted by all parties in the council. 

In his letter, he said the political instability in the metro had created a state of lawlessness which had led to the collapse of the administration. 

Johnson previously indicated that she was in support of Nqatha’s proposal. DM/MC

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Richard Fitzpatrick says:

    I`m not sorry for saying this because if you want to continuously vote for the crooks & thieves of the ANC then you deserve to be knee deep in the *** that you are, if you keep falling for the same lies then you are the problem. The ANC is meant to be the liberation party, well, how liberated do you feel? I feel sorry for the people who have seen through the corruption and voted for (any) different party but the rest of you are utter morons.

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