11 June 2010
State of the City address
by the executive mayor of Buffalo City
Thank you Madame Speaker, and greetings to you and your honourable stakeholders in the affairs of the Buffalo City Council. It is indeed a great honour for me to stand before this august assembly this morning and report on the state of Buffalo City and, in that same vein, unveil our plans and provisions for the continued development of the city and its people.
Allow me, Madame Speaker to first acknowledge the presence of the King of AmaRharhabe, representatives of His Royal Highness King Maxhoba Sandile, and all his regents, alongside all the traditional leaders present and represented here today.
I want to express a special word of greetings to the leadership of ANC structures represented here today; our Alliance partners from the SACP and Cosatu; the Chairperson of the Standing Committee on Local Government in the Provincial Legislature, Comrade Mlibo Qoboshiyane; and all public office bearers gracing this occasion.
I acknowledge, with respect, the leaders of the different political parties that are represented in the Buffalo City Council – the ANC, DA PAC, and ACDP. I also want to acknowledge the Members of the Mayoral Committee, all our Councillors, and all invited public office bearers gracing this occasion.
Greetings to the leaders and representatives of local community sectors – the business and industrial cluster, the religious fraternity, the security and law enforcement sector; education, health, social and welfare practitioners; sports personalities; women, youth, and the disabled citizens of Buffalo City; and all the representatives of governmental and non-governmental organisations and institutions present here today.
In greeting you all, I want to thank you wholeheartedly for making the time to share this day with us. Traditionally, The State of the City address is an annual report given to stakeholders on the performance and milestones of the Municipality. It is also an opportunity for us to jointly interrogate the Municipality’s plans and service delivery programmes for the future. The final recipients of such a report are, therefore, the stakeholders. That is why I find it incumbent upon me to formally thank you for being here today.
It is also fitting that I recognize the representatives of our staff, without whom we would be a vehicle without an engine. I personally value the cooperation that we as an institution get from both SAMWU and IMATU, cooperation that means the difference between a happy and an unhappy workforce.
Madame Speaker, in my previous State of the City address I took the time to commend the African National Congress, for its unwavering commitment to the social and economic emancipation of all South Africans, the creation of a non-racial and non-sexist society, and the steady-but-sure movement towards a better life for all.
I would like to reassure everybody assembled in this chamber that these anchoring pillars of our Movement still serve as the guiding principles of all that we do as ANC deployees in Buffalo City Municipality, and it is my hope that they will continue to stand as beacons for the direction that we need to take for the remainder of our term in Council.
Madame Speaker, exactly a year ago I stood on this same platform and implored the citizens of Buffalo City, especially the staff of the Municipality, to go back to the basics, to re-examine our original purpose and aspirations for our beloved city. I did this because I, and several other people both within and outside the Municipality, were concerned about the apparent lack of purpose and commitment that seemed to characterize the day-to-day life of Buffalo City Municipality.
As the Municipality, we are in the business of service delivery. We are the stewards of development, quality and sustainable services. When we begin to neglect this mandate, we place ourselves in a precarious position. We become vulnerable to justified criticism, and the people that we are supposed to serve moan and groan, all to no avail.
It thus becomes important that we should, from time to time, examine our performance to see if we are successful or not in delivering on this mandate. Success and failure come in several forms. But the most reliable yardstick for both is in the “yes” of the people. As the end-beneficiaries of the services that we deliver, the people are better placed to judge us, to measure the quality of our work, and to pronounce on our performance as their servants in service delivery.
In this regard, Madame Speaker, it grieves me to have to report to this gathering that, generally, the people of Buffalo City still cherish a very negative opinion of their Municipality. Buffalo City Municipality has still not lived up to their expectations.
If I may use Breidbach as an example of what it is like to live in a peri-urban area of Buffalo City, the grass there has not been cut for more than a year. In fact, Madame Speaker, the people of the area last saw a dedicated grass-cutting programme in November 2007. But when one checks the grass-cutting schedules of the Community Services Directorate, you find that Breidbach has been accommodated. But the services never reach the area.
Frequent and unexpected water and electricity interruptions have become the order of the day. The people of Breidbach will tell you that, when you see a thunderstorm approaching, you must prepare your candles and paraffin lamps, because a guaranteed power black-out is imminent. And such black-outs generally last up to 24-hours, with no word from the Municipality concerning the status of the problem.
The refuse collection services are unreliable and very erratic. Nobody can guarantee that the refuse will be collected on the prescribed day, which in this case is Fridays. Sometimes, refuse bags stand on the pavements for the entire weekend, giving neighbourhood dogs an opportunity to tear the bags and litter the streets.
When the Municipality repairs potholes in the area, the work is of such a shoddy standard that, once it rains, the potholes reappear, as if the material used melts easily when it comes into contact with water.
To add to all this misery, there are a number of local nuisances that the Municipality does not seem to be doing anything to correct. Like bus operators who service their buses in the middle of the street, disturbing the smooth flow of traffic and causing dangerous oil spills.
When a house starts to burn in Breidbach, one expects it to burn to the ground before the fire engines arrive, because the nearest fire station is in King William’s Town, about ten kilometers away. Liquor traders in the area enjoy the freedom of operating throughout the night, especially on weekends, causing untold misery to neighbouring families. The local clinic sometimes runs out of life-giving stocks like insulin, and diabetic patients have to travel to other clinics for supplies.
Such and several other frustrations are, to a large extent, also experienced in other areas of Buffalo City. Breidbach is by no means the last grave of Buffalo City. The people of Dimbaza and Mdantsane will tell you that there is nothing new in what Breidbach is crying about. It is an inherent sickness that has come to engulf Buffalo City, transforming it from a place of safety and comfort, to a place of misery and squalor.
To further appreciate this negative characteristic, one should also imagine what life is like in other peri-urban areas of Buffalo City; places like Duncan Village and Scenery Park, where children are forever exposed to the health risks that are associated with open sanitation problems and overflowing sewers. You should imagine what life is like for the shack dwellers of Gompo, Bufferstrip, Potsdam, and other areas that are in desperate need of housing units; people who have been on the waiting list for more than ten years, whilst money allocated for building housing units has gone unspent for a number of years.
That, Madame Speaker, is the essence of our failure as the Municipality to deliver quality and timely services to the people who depend on us for their general welfare. That is the legacy that we, as Buffalo City Municipality, have built for ourselves, a legacy of unfulfilled promises, shoddy workmanship, and total neglect of our people.
For too long, we have allowed this rot to continue unchallenged, whilst the responsible culprits continue to draw guaranteed salaries from our coffers. To add salt to the wound, the Municipality has, for the period ending on 31 March 2010, spent R3.3 million in overtime payments to staff members, money for which we have been getting no returns whatsoever, because the ugly status quo of lack of service delivery has remained unchanged.
Enough is enough, Madame Speaker. Today I make bold to announce that the honeymoon is over. The people of Buffalo City have waited too long for the Municipality to deliver on its promises, and we dare not make them to wait any longer. We either deliver, or close shop. The choice is ours.
Understandably, we need honest, committed and dedicated people to make this difference. If the people who are responsible for driving and implementing service delivery are unable to deliver, we can always find a legitimate way to deal with them effectively, and to the benefit of the people of Buffalo City.
In short, Madame Speaker, it is time that everyone who is employed by Buffalo City Municipality starts earning their salary. Each and everyone of us has to choose between being a parasite and being a champion of service delivery; choose between being a passenger and being a driver of service delivery.
From the very beginning of the coming Financial Year, we are going to shift gears and go into overdrive, service delivery in overdrive. All service delivery Departments will be monitored from the very beginning, to ensure that we do not, halfway through the Financial Year, start speaking of service delivery backlogs and challenges.
In 2011, Buffalo City Municipality will be officially translated into a Metropolitan Municipality. To some, the metro status brings glamour and added opportunities for development, both personal and institutional. Many of us look forward to the elevated status and position of eminence that our Municipality will enjoy in the eyes of the public.
For some strange reason, we prefer to ignore the added responsibility that will be brought to bear on our shoulders, the significant upturn in service delivery, and the increased level of development that accompanies a metro status. My advice would that, instead of looking forward to celebrating this status, we should start gearing ourselves to go into service delivery overdrive, because that is what a metro is all about.
We should start now developing a culture of responsible, accountable, and outcomes-based service. We should start now instilling new, positive, and commendable values amongst all our employees, in all ranks and at all levels, from the Municipal Manager down to the street cleaner. Working with our unions, we must endeavour to create a new and honest culture of service.
I am of the opinion that, unless each and everyone of us realises and respects the role that he or she has to play to fulfill the Municipality’s service delivery mandate, we will forever make futile and non-achievable promises to our people. Service delivery is not driven by machines and paper work, but by people. The Office of the Municipal Manager will therefore have to be ruthlessly demanding of all Directors, who in turn will be expected to keep their General Managers in check for every minute of the day.
The Human Resources Department will have to tighten staff control measures to ensure that all available hands are on deck. The culture of rolling sick leave must be halted as a matter of urgency. I was shocked, Madame Speaker, to learn that one of our staff members has been on rolling sick leave for more than a year. Throughout this period, this same person has been highly active in party politics, and profitably engaged in private business activities. And, all along, the Municipality has been aware of this.
If, Madame Speaker, we are preparing to go into service delivery overdrive, such and several other silly staff anomalies have to come to an abrupt end. We can no longer afford to carry passengers and, in that same vein, spend large sums of money in overtime payments to other staff members.
Service delivery overdrive calls for total dedication, unwavering commitment, and pure honesty from amongst role players. The final objective is to create a better life for our people, to change public opinion about the performance of the Municipality, and to live up to the divergent expectations of all the sectors of our communities.
Madame Speaker, the Municipality has steadfastly continued to take seriously issues of human resource development, in order to ensure that we have competent employees who are able to deliver on the mandate of the Council. A Skills auditing exercise is currently underway, with the assistance of the National Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, to establish skills gaps and to adjust the Organizational Training Plan accordingly for implementation in the next financial year. This Training Plan provides for learnerships in Electrical Engineering, Water and Waste Water Operation, Water Distribution, Civil Engineering, Finance, Local Economic Development and Human Resources Management. Of highest priority will be the implementation, during the first quarter of the next Financial Year of a capacity building program for financial managers, in order to meet the minimum competency levels as prescribed by National Treasury regulations.
During the year under review, the Human Resources Department facilitated the appointment of 514 permanent employees to fill vacant funded posts on the organizational structure. One of the objectives for the new Financial Year will be to continue to fill all vacant funded posts, in order to have a fully functional organization..
Madame Speaker, we are still faced with a large number of cases of serious misconduct like fraud and theft of municipal assets. To illustrate the seriousness of the matter, the Organisational Support Department had to spend R2.5 million to upgrade security at its computer room. The Municipality has had to conduct various initiatives aimed at discouraging and reducing acts of misconduct. These include educational programmes on the seriousness of acts of misconduct. These programmes are to be reinforced in the next Financial Year, and will be monitored to check their efficacy.
The Municipality has continued to drive employee wellness as a priority, and has held 3 employee wellness days during the period under review, all aimed at improving the wellness of Councillors and staff. Plans are also in place to extend the Employee Wellness services to the King Williams Town Civic Centre during the next Financial Year, for accessibility to employees based in the Inland Region.
Also, options are currently being investigated on availing gymnasium services to eligible Municipal employees and Councilors during the next Financial Year, to entrench a mindset of a healthy living style amongst our employees. An amount of R2,5 million has already been set aside for Employee Wellness Programs, including the gymnasium services.
Madame Speaker, it fills me with great joy to have to report to this august gathering, that Buffalo City Municipality has retained its First Class Sound Financial Management credit rating, through the recently released results of the assessment that was made by the Global Credit Rating Company based in Johannesburg.
In terms of this rating, the Municipality has a high credit quality, and its protection factors are good. Also, the Municipality offers high certainty of timely payment. Liquidity factors are strong and supported by good fundamental protection factors, and the risk factors are very low. With this kind of credit rating to back us up, we are able to approach any financing institution with confidence.
Buffalo City Municipality’s telecommunication system received a major boost during the year under review with the upgrading of its telecommunication network. An amount of R5.8 million was spent on this project, and a further R500.000 was used to upgrade our radio network. The Organisational Support Department also acquired 16 additional staff members, the majority of which were absorbed into the ICT Division.
During the year under review, Buffalo City Municipality conducted a highly successful Ward Boundary Delimitation Public Participation Programme driven by the Speaker, Councillor Luleka Simon. The Municipal Demarcation Board has hailed the exercise as a benchmark of excellence in public participation nationally. The Speaker has reported to me that the Chairperson of the Board has suggested, informally, that Buffalo City should be used as a case study in this process.
When Buffalo City started its 2010 campaign, the strategic objective articulated in the IDP was to use the opportunity to position ourselves as a sports destination of choice, nationally and internationally, through the introduction of high profile sporting events into the city. Through this campaign, the Ironman 70.3 Triathlon has since made East London its home up to the year 2013, with prospects of extending the contract further.
In 2008, we hosted a successful South African Open Tennis Championships, and we have now become a destination of choice for the popular Africa Open Golf Championships. Now recently, we partnered with Branco Sports Promotions and SABC Sport to re-establish East London as the South African Mecca of boxing, by hosting the World Mini Flyweight Title Fight at the recently completed International Conference Centre. There our local hero, Nkosinathi Joyi, put this city on the world map by winning the encounter with a heroic performance.
Our development cooperation relations with various global cities continue to grow from strength to strength, and the spinoffs for local community projects remain the key focus area. Some of the more prominent current initiatives include twinning agreements with the Cities of Gävle in Sweden, Leiden in the Netherlands, and Milwaukee in the USA. We also have partnerships with international Local Government Associations like VNG in the Netherlands, and SALAIDA in Sweden. In March 2009, we went into a tripartite agreement with Amathole District Municipality and the City of Glasgow in Scotland.
The general principle in establishing such links is the concept of a City Wide Approach that is aimed at strengthening Local Government, exchanging expertise, and supporting the reconstruction of South Africa by contacts not only between politicians and officials, but also between companies and civic organisations.
But, Madame Speaker, whilst we are fully appreciative of our overseas engagements, I would like to see us developing similar or even more meaningful development cooperation links with at least one African city during the coming Financial Year, this in pursuance of South Africa’s Foreign Policy. Also, it is time that Buffalo City, as a signatory of the Windhoek Declaration on South-South Relations, moves closer to other SADC cities for cooperation links. Presently, we have a loose arrangement with Francistown in Botswana, and I have subsequently given instruction that our Development Cooperation Unit should start pushing the African agenda more vigorously.
Madame Speaker, the Municipality’s Fire and Rescue services received a major boost with the approval of a new R11 million fire station for the King Williams Town area, and the awarding of a R2.4 million tender for 4 new bush fire fighting vehicles. The division will be involved in the 2010 World Cup Public Viewing Areas, and 40 staff members have received basic ambulance training. Two Disaster Management Officers were appointed this year to complement the staff of the unit.
New premises were approved, during the current Financial Year for Law Enforcement Services, and driver training was initiated for traffic officers for Code EC driving licences. Eight Law Enforcement officers were recruited and sent for six month basic training. Personnel also received training in cash in transit and fraud and forensic investigation.
Our Communications Department continues to provide municipal personnel with regular newsletters, one print and one electronic, and providing them with a platform to voice their views. The Department’s programme of external newsletters is meant to ensure that our messages reach our communities. Whether this is happening to our satisfaction is debatable. The linkage between the Department and the communities does not seem to be adequately strong and effective, and needs serious attention. I would therefore appeal to Ward Councillors to work hand-in-hand with the Department to ensure the smooth and guaranteed dissemination of information to consumers.
Right now, the Department is involved in plans to establish a Community Radio Station in Mdantsane. This facility will assist Buffalo City Municipality in terms of developmental communication and instant feed-back. The activation of this facility will also lead to the launch of BCM News on Radio where a platform will be created for politicians and officials to engage with the public, in an endeavour to promote participatory democracy.
Government Communication and Information Systems, and the Office of the Premier, are assisting us with the conversion of our Community Support Centres into Thusong centres. Thusong is a Sotho word that means place of help. This concept will see more information services being brought closer to people. The Thusong centres will be fully operational in the new Financial Year.
As a member of the South African Cities Network, BCM is obliged to conduct an annual Customer Satisfaction Survey. In the new Financial Year, the Communications Department will lead this process that will eventually advise the Municipality on how to serve our people better.
Service delivery highlights
Madame Speaker, in my Budget Speech during our Open Day session in May this year, I mentioned that we have a huge housing backlog that is representative of both the Coastal and Inland Regions. I mentioned this because the provision of decent, habitable and sustainable human settlements remains a priority for Buffalo City Municipality. I also reported, in my Budget Speech, that the Provincial Department of Human Settlements still had to commit funding for housing for the next Financial Year. At the time that this report was prepared, we were still waiting for an indication from the Department.
Meanwhile, various housing development projects were implemented within the City by the Municipality and the Provincial Department of Human Settlement during the current Financial Year. Houses were constructed in Reeston Phase 1 and 2; Amalinda, Simanyene, and Tshabo Phase 1 and 2. Additional funding was also made available during the Financial Year to unblock projects that had been blocked because of poor workmanship by contractors on site. These projects are Z Soga, Ilitha South, Tyutyu Phase 1 and 2, Dimbaza Phase 2, and Cambridge Phase 3.
A total of 3289 houses were constructed. Of these, 1170 have already been handed over to beneficiaries. Site excavations were done for 3614 units, and a further 3494 units currently under construction are already at roof level. It is anticipated that these units will be completed with the next 6 months.
In April this year, Buffalo City Municipality and the Provincial Department of Human Settlement launched the Manyano and Thembelihle low cost housing project, consisting of 850 units. The contractor was introduced to the community, and is expected to start construction in July 2010. The Municipality envisages to develop between 4,000 and 5,000 low cost housing units during the coming Financial Year.
In an endeavour to address the housing rental market, the Municipality has supported the development of Emerald Sky, which comprises 690 units, and Kennwick Close with 71 units. A total of 452 social housing units have already been completed.
The Municipality has received a funding commitment from the National Treasury, through the Neighbourhood Development Partnership Grant, for Mdantsane and Duncan Village, for amounts of R128 million and R90 million respectively. The Mdantsane CBD will also be rejuvenated with facilities for retail, entertainment, accommodation, sports and recreation. As the Mecca of boxing, Mdantsane will also be provided with a boxing museum, also within the CBD. The plans and designs for these projects will be developed through the Technical Assistance Grant.
In the Duncan Village precinct, various projects will be implemented across the area. At this stage, the electrification of informal settlements can be confirmed for implementation in the next Financial Year, also using the Technical Assistance Grant for designs. Further, Township Regeneration Strategies will be developed for Mdantsane and Duncan Village. Through engagements with National Treasury, funding for this work has also been extended to Dimbaza and Zwelitsha.
The Second Creek Housing Development is in the process of being implemented. The Department of Economic Development and Environmental Affairs has finally issued a positive Record of Decision (ROD) which was the main hindrance for Buffalo City Municipality to begin with the Second Creek Housing Development.
The Municipality will approve the Township Establishment application before the end of this month, that is June 2010. Subsequent to the approval of the General Plans, the installation of internal services will start. The Provincial Department of Human settlements has committed R24 million towards this project, for the construction of 289 units. It is anticipated that top-structure construction will commence in October this year, and that the project will be completed by December 2011.
Beneficiary registration is underway, and 170 beneficiaries have already been approved. The remainder is under consideration as the Municipality is engaged in a process to sort out their individual problems.
Madame Speaker, I want to state categorically that all these developments have brought some amount of relief to me and the Council. Already, some mischievous parties were beginning to use the plight of the Second Creek people for their nefarious ends. But I will only rest completely when the first beneficiary receives the keys to his or her house.
Water is a source of life. What this means to us, as the Municipality, is that all communities in Buffalo City - urban and rural – should have access to clean and safe water. Last year, I reported that our ability to render this service was, in many instances, hampered by leaking and bursting water mains, due to the ageing water reticulation infrastructure. Relevant interventions were implemented during this Financial Year, resulting in a saving in excess of 50 mililitres of water per day. In turn, this will ensure that sufficient bulk portable water is available for residential and commercial demands.
Also, timely intervention at Umzonyana Water Treatment Works has saved 12 500 000 litres of water per day, thus creating capacity for housing delivery and avoiding wastage of a scarce resource. Other interventions were made in Fynbos, Sunny South, Alphendale, Masibulele, Velwano, Bhongweni, Masingata, Newlands, Msintsini, Duncan Village, Zwelitsha, and Dimbaza. Work was also started on Expanding and augmenting the Amahleke Water System. The Municipality is currently conducting a Water Saving Public Education Campaign as a further means of saving water.
The quality of drinking water within Buffalo City came under the spotlight in February this year, when samples from 62 sites were analyzed, and it was found that only 19% of monitored samples was acceptable for drinking, representing only 12 of the 62 sampled sites. This figure represents a decrease of 21% in the number of compliant sites sampled only a month earlier. The number of water sites that need urgent attention increased by 22% to 47, while the remaining three sites failed the test outright.
Various investigations are currently being carried out to determine remedial measures. These include replacement of water filters, and by-passing the balancing dam in order to avoid the high algal water. Also, a portion of the sludge intended for the sludge beds is being pumped into raw water inlets, thus increasing the turbidity of the water. We can safely say that the situation is under control, and that there is no need to panic.
The good news is that a definite dent was made into backlogs for both water and sanitation. Priority was given to eradicating the old ablution blocks and chemical toilets in urban informal areas, and replacing them with systems that address the fact that “sanitation is dignity”.
The Engineering Directorate has commenced with the work of centralising the Schornville, Bhisho and Breidbach Wastewater Treatment Works in Zwelitsha, thus making Zwelitsha a regional Works for the area. Augmentation and upgrading of the Quenera and Reeston Wastewater Treatment Works is underway, as well as the diversion of Wilsonia effluent. These Wastewater Treatment Works will also be capacitated to remove phosphates, thus allowing re-use of the effluent.
Amatola Water has informed us that they intend to construct a new concrete water reservoir in Berlin to replace the existing reservoir on site, which is now dilapidated from extended use. The new reservoir will have a capacity of 6 millilitres of water. The site is registered in the name of Buffalo City Municipality, and the Directorate of Planning and Economic Development has already started the process of getting Council’s permission for the project to go ahead.
We realise that there is much that still needs to be done to upgrade the electrical infrastructure in Buffalo City. During the current Financial Year, a strong emphasis was placed on provision and maintenance of street lighting in places like Ramaphosa, Fynbos, Scenery Park, Mdantsane, Ginsberg, Duncan Village, Phakamisa, Qumza Highway, and Dimbaza.
High mast lighting was also erected in various areas, as well as a hydromast at the Highway Taxi Rank in Mdantsane. The upgrading of electricity reticulation in Reeston and Queenspark is still ongoing, and electrification of informal areas is on the cards for the coming Financial Year.
Madame Speaker, the fight against HIV and AIDS continues to occupy centre-stage in BCM’s community health programmes, with varying degrees of success. The Siyakhana Project has managed to place one dedicated Professional Nurse and a Lay Counselor to improve voluntary testing and counselling uptake in 6 Buffalo City health care facilities, namely Berlin Clinic, John Dube, Chris Hani, Central Clinic, Gompo C, and Zanempilo Clinics.
The Municipality’s Wellness Centre conducted another internal voluntary counselling and treatment initiative in September last year, to assess the Municipality’s HIV/AIDS prevalence. The figure has come down from 10,3% in 2004, to 3,17% in September 2009. Although these figures should be treated with caution, bearing in mind the voluntary nature of the testing campaign, and the fact that people who have already been tested probably wouldn’t want to be tested again, it still reflects a positive drop in the HIV prevalence of our Councillors and staff, showing that our HIV/AIDS programmes are having a positive effect.
Our Health Department continues to oversee the smooth running of the Second Creek Day Care Centre, which was established with a container donated by Eskom on land donated by the Municipality. We also provided fencing and standpipes for the project. Umthombo, a non-governmental organization dealing with street kids, provides food for the approximately 35 children attending the Day Care Centre.
During the year under review, the Health Department ran a training programme for 18 volunteers from the Inland Region clinics and 3 Health Promotion Assistants, on First Aid and Home-Based Care for people living with AIDS. The Department also trained 15 volunteers from Duncan Village on paraffin safety, and a Paraffin Safety Awareness Day was held at Ziphunzana Informal Settlement at the beginning of this month.
Sinebhongo clinic became fully operational at the beginning of November last year, and the Berlin clinic has been extended with 2 extra consulting rooms and a disabled toilet to ensure adequate space for additional services such as voluntary counselling and testing. Fort Grey, Beacon Bay and Gompo C clinics have been fenced with pallisade wire to provide more security for the premises.
Madame Speaker, I am happy to report that our outreach programmes on circumcision are beginning to pay good dividends. The joint efforts by the Municipality, South African Police Services, Men for Change, Correctional Services, traditional leaders and community-based organisations have helped to contain the incidence of illegal circumcisions. As a result, there has been a significant drop in botched circumcisions from December 2008 to December 2009. Only one circumcision death was reported for the December 2009 circumcision season. Perhaps this could also be attributed, partly, to the fact that there has been an increase in the number of traditional surgeons and traditional nurses, as well as Health Promotion Assistants provided by the Municipality.
Significant strides have been made to mainstream the disability agenda in Buffalo City. The flagship project in this regard was consolidated with the launch of the John Dube Clinic in Scenery Park, a national benchmark in clinics with disability-friendly services and facilities. We have also focused on ensuring that public libraries are disability-friendly, particularly with regard to blind people, and generally mainstreaming disability awareness in all our Departments.
Following shortly on the Municipality’s development and implementation of a Disability Policy and Strategy, we now have, for the first time in history, provided funds for support programmes for disabled people within Buffalo City. We realised that it is not fair to them to keep on reminding them that they, also, are bona fide citizens of Buffalo City, when, in fact, we are doing nothing to address their needs and their frustrations. We have therefore provided R100.000 for them for the coming Financial Year. We will study their spending trends and, hopefully, review this figure in the future.
Also, Madame Speaker, we have started with a project to assist visually impaired people with audible signals at pedestrian crossings that have traffic lights. Additional to this, tactile paving is used on the sidewalks at the approach to the pedestrian crossing, and this helps to alert visually impaired pedestrians to the proximity of the crossing, while also guiding them to the pedestrian point and the push button.
The pedestrian crossing on Amalinda Drive at Frere Hospital was chosen as the pilot project for this system, and R130.000 was spent in upgrading the traffic control system there to assist visually impaired people. Our objective is to upgrade all signalized pedestrian crossings within Buffalo City to this new system, starting with pedestrian crossings that are likely to experience the highest concentration of visually impaired pedestrians.
In my Budget Speech in May this year, I reiterated the fact that we have not abandoned our commitment to make life better for destitute households within Buffalo City. Currently, indigent households are receiving a subsidy of R283.90 per household per month. We have since realised that, whilst we are doing our best to assist these people, this amount falls very short of making a dent in their municipal accounts. We have therefore decided to increase the monthly household indigent package to R313.43 in the next Financial Year, with the hope that this will bring relief to destitute families.
We have also resolved to retain the 50 kilowatts of free electricity and 6 kilolitres of free water per month to each indigent household, and to continue subsidizing, in full, their refuse removal, sewerage and fire levy accounts.
Madame Speaker, the Roads Department has been kept busy during the present Financial Year. Roads were upgraded in Club View, Ezigodweni, New Rest, Duncan Village, Nompumelelo, Bhongweni, Ekupumleni, and Egoli. Rural roads in Balasi, Hanover, Cliff, Potsdam, Newlands, Liefelt, Mpundu, Peelton, Tshatshu, and Mimosa also received attention. Roads in Mdantsane and Quenera are presently, being attended to, as well as access roads in Zwelitsha, Ginsberg, Mjoli, and Nxarhuni.
Buffalo City has approximately 212 cemeteries. Of these, 24 were formally planned, whilst the rest are in rural and informal areas and lacking appropriate infrastructure like roads, fencing, and water points. Research has revealed that the majority of cemeteries in our urban and per-urban have reached full capacity, and that the majority of burial sites in the rural areas are either located on unsuitable land, or are undeveloped.
The Department of Environmental Services is presently faced with serious challenges concerning vandalism and lack of security at several cemeteries. In rural areas, there is the ever-present danger of potential ground and surface water pollution from cemeteries that are located near watercourses. The Municipality is conducting ongoing research, assisted by relevant stakeholder institutions, to find ways and means of dealing with these situations. It has already been suggested that rural cemetery sites should be identified by professional land surveyors, as against the present practice of the community taking decisions on this matter.
There are also the differences in terms of tariff charges for the various urban and peri-urban communities, which is a legacy inherited from the past administrations. Council has embarked on a programme to have a uniform set of tariffs that will be applied by all cemeteries in Buffalo City.
A reasonable amount of funding has been invested for the coming Financial Year to upgrade some of our rural cemeteries. A total of 12 rural cemeteries will be fenced from a R2.4 million grant funding.
Grass cutting, beautification, bush clearing and cemetery clean-ups are glaringly lagging behind in Buffalo City. Communities continue to complain about this bad state of affairs. The issue also emerged as a generic topic during the recent IDP hearings.
A key mechanism identified as having the potential to bring services to communities in a more efficient way is to create Rapid Response Teams within the Department. Work has already begun in this respect, and this new service delivery unit will be fully operational on 01 July 2010. One can only hope, Madame Speaker, that this unit will not, in due course, degenerate into a useless entity that has more excuses than reasons for not doing its work. Otherwise such a unit has the potential to go into service delivery overdrive.
I have already made mention of the unsatisfactory services provided by the Municipality’s refuse removal section, and I do not think that it will do the issue any justice to debate it further. But I want to point out, Madame Speaker, that, this time, we are placing this service under sharp scrutiny. We are no longer going to accommodate explanations about shortage of labour and shortage of equipment, excuses that we only get AFTER the damage has been done.
We are also inviting our communities to assist us by reporting any departures from collection schedules to the Office of the Municipal Manager. Reporting such incidents to the Community Services Directorate does not yield any positive results, because you are reporting to some of the very people who are responsible for the mess that we find ourselves in.
On a more positive note, Madame Speaker, the Directorate spent R26 million developing, building and upgrading halls throughout Buffalo City during the year under review. Some halls had to be built from scratch, whilst others only needed refurbishments and upgrading. The provision of community halls cannot be undermined, as several communities throughout Buffalo City advanced this as a priority need during the IDP hearings.
The Municipality’s Traffic and Law Enforcement Division participated in a combined alcohol enforcement program with SAPS and Provincial Department of Transport and Traffic Control, which resulted in 430 arrests for driving under the influence of alcohol over one weekend. Ten supervisors have been trained in respect of Administration and Adjudication of the Road Traffic Offences Act, and 30 traffic officers were trained in respect of the N2/N6 Incident Management System.
The development of Buffalo City’s economy depends, to a large extent, on our ability to attract investment and growth, and to provide the necessary precursory infrastructure. In this regard, we have steadfastly continued with a rolling programme of maintaining and upgrading our water, sanitation, electricity, and roads infrastructure. We do this because we realise that we need a vibrant economy if we are to guarantee the creation of job opportunities for our people as a precursor to the eradication of poverty.
In that same vein, Madame Speaker, we realise that the economy needs skilled and capable labour. For this reason, we have not abandoned our training and skills development programmes, especially for young people. Also, my office continues to provide study bursaries for needy students within Buffalo City, to enable them to acquire the necessary qualifications and academic skills needed in the job market.
Madame Speaker, last year I lamented the unimpressive state of our rural and agricultural development programmes, and I noted that this was one field of development that needed extensive upgrading. I have since discovered that, whilst the function of rural development per se has been officially delegated to the Department of Local Economic Development, Tourism and Rural Development, the actual rural development programmes and projects are scattered indiscriminately amongst various Departments of the Municipality, with no mechanism in place for collaboration.
The end-result of this ridiculous arrangement is that the Municipality does not have a cohesive plan for rural development. To add to this service delivery nightmare, some services are not the responsibility of the Municipality, but are managed by external institutions. For example, Eskom is responsible for the provision of electricity, while the provision of health services remains the responsibility of the Provincial Department of Health.
I have come to the conclusion, Madame Speaker, that we need to develop a more serious and honest approach to rural development. For starters, we need to get everybody involved in rural development around a discussion table, interrogate our shortcomings against our aspirations, and find a way of either centralizing rural development programmes under a single Department, or establishing a strong and workable mechanism for coordinating our rural development strategies and objectives.
This kind of exercise will, of necessity, have to bring our traditional leaders on board. They are recognised authorities on rural dynamics and lifestyles. They know what rural people need, and how to make life better for them. The anomaly arises when urban-based people try to plan the lives of people living in rural areas. We have to avoid that, Madame Speaker, if we are serious about turning around the situation in our rural areas.
Madame Speaker, allow me now to go back to what I said last year about our commitment as the Municipality to the values of the ANC, and the priority areas for development that have emerged from those values. In this regard, I would like to remind the Council and the audience that the ANC has identified and established five priority development areas for all three spheres of Government, which are:
- The creation of decent work and sustainable livelihoods
- Rural development, food security, land and social reforms
- The fight against crime and corruption.
In turn, the President of the Republic of South Africa, the Honourable Mr. Jacob Gedleyihlekisa Zuma, has outlined Central Government’s ten priorities for development for the term of the present administration, and all ten speak directly to our mandate as Local Government. These are:
- To work together to speed up economic growth and transform the economy to create decent work and sustainable livelihood.
- To introduce a massive programme to build our social infrastructure.
- To develop and implement a comprehensive rural development strategy linked to land and agrarian reform and food security.
- To strengthen the skills and human resources base, and to improve the health profile of all South Africans.
- To intensify the fight against crime and corruption.
- To build cohesive, caring and sustainable communities.
- To work with Africa and the rest of the world to pursue African Advancement and enhanced international co-operation.
- To ensure sustainable resource management and use.
- To work with the people and, supported by our public servants, to build a developmental state, improve public services and strengthen democratic institutions.
- To create decent work by influencing investment attraction and job-creation initiatives.
If, Madame Speaker, we want to make a significant dent in the levels of poverty, unemployment, crime and other social evils, we will have to rededicate ourselves to all these ideals, and to align ourselves with the holistic people-centred objectives of the African National Congress.
For starters, in the coming Financial Year, we need to maximise the Municipality’s job creation potential. That should be one of our priorities if we are to achieve the objectives of the ANC in as far as poverty eradication is concerned. We need to emphasize labour-intensive job creation methods in the Capital programmes of the Municipality, as envisaged in the Expanded Public Works Programme.
Before Municipal Departments can start spending money on projects, they must make sure that provision is made for the recruitment of local people as workers. We have a duty and a responsibility towards our citizens, to create for them decent work and sustainable livelihoods. We have to re-affirm our mandate as the delivery sphere of Government and, in so doing, dedicate ourselves completely and unequivocally to the welfare of our people.
The FIFA 2010 Soccer World Cup is upon us. Tomorrow is kick-off day, with South Africa playing against Mexico. As we all know, Buffalo City is neither a base camp nor a venue for matches. But this does not mean that our people cannot enjoy this thirty-day soccer extravaganza. That is why, as the Municipality, we have facilitated public viewing areas, one in the Coastal Region and one in the Inland Region.
I want to repeat the statement that the 2010 Soccer World Cup kicks off tomorrow. This, Madame Speaker, will be the culmination of a process that has taken more than five years to unfold; starting from the time that the announcement was made that South Africa would host the soccer spectacle.
Once the celebrations were over, the work of preparing for the World Cup started in earnest. Projects were identified, operators were brought on board, and time frames were put into place. Now and then, negative developments tried to derail the process. But because the organisers had a target date to work towards, they did not allow themselves to be detracted. Political and labour-related disturbances threatened the process. But the organisers stuck to their guns, kept their shoulder on the wheel, and soldiered on towards 11 June 2010.
There is a lesson to be learnt from all this. If we, as Buffalo City Municipality, are serious about lifting the tempo of our service delivery, then we should start by acknowledging the needs and frustrations of our people, and work towards fulfilling them as our principal objective. We must then set ourselves time frames for completing whatever it is that we need to do. We should be able to say when we want things to happen. The culture of an open-ended diary has proved to be a failure. Service delivery Departments must set themselves time-frames for what they have to do, and then work towards meeting those time frames.
Secondly, the despicable habit of waiting until the closing months of the Financial Year before starting to spend the Capital Budget must be brought to an abrupt end. By April this year, Madame Speaker, the Municipality had spent less than 30% of its Capital Budget for the Financial Year 2009/2010. This was not because we did not have an IDP to guide us, to tell us what projects and programmes were expected of us during the Financial Year.
We were late in spending the money simply because the people who were driving development service delivery during the Financial Year were either too lazy to do their work, or had no idea as to where to start, or what needed to be done. We were thus left with only two months in which to spend more than 70% of the budget. And that in itself was an impossible mission, unless we are not concerned about the quality of our services.
Last year we made a solemn commitment to our stakeholders that there would be no more budget rollovers, but that we would do our best to spend the money on their needs and aspirations, as encapsulated in the IDP. But today we are again talking about money that has not been spent and, strange enough, no one is able to give an intelligent explanation for this shortcoming.
This brings us to a very important matter that we need to take into serious consideration, namely the calibre of managers that we employ to implement the Municipality’s development and service delivery programmes. Surely, there is something that we are missing in our selection process. Maybe we concentrate too much on academic qualifications, without due regard to a person’s background, the background that will give us an indication of his or her work history, successes and failures, commitment to duty, and honesty towards the cause of the employer.
Maybe, Madame Speaker, in our haste to fill vacant key posts, we overlook the right people, simply because they occupy positions that are junior to the advertised post. We twist our minds into a psychological knot by casting our eyes on the mountain tops, when in fact the gold is at our feet. Maybe, still, we expect too much from the people that we put into key positions.
Whatever the case, Madame Speaker, we need to seriously look into our system of selecting personnel for key positions within the Municipality, otherwise we will forever be the laughing stock of our detractors and the communities that we serve. We will forever make futile promises of service delivery to our people when, in fact, we do not have the capacity to deliver on those promises.
Coming back to the 2010 World Cup, Madame Speaker, the people of Buffalo City have already joined the rest of world in welcoming this soccer extravaganza. Tomorrow, when the first whistle is blown, the people of Buffalo City will be watching with interest, all anticipating a win for Bafana Bafana. We would like the world to know that, whatever the outcome of tomorrow’s match or subsequent matches, the people of Buffalo City stand firmly behind their national soccer squad.
But we would not like to be overly complacent and think that the World Cup will only be a time of unlimited joy and entertainment. Remember, Madame Speaker, every bed of roses has its thorny patches. Already, security forces have embarked on a campaign to sensitise people about the possible incidence of high profile criminal activities during the World Cup, where syndicates will use the high concentration of people in the country to ply their nefarious activities. I want to add my voice to these and several other warnings and pieces of advice that have been emanating from official sources, and to implore the people of Buffalo City, especially the parents of young children, to be extra vigilant.
There is yet another element that has thus far received very little attention, namely the negative socio-economic situations that may result from overindulgence. People must plan their spending and entertainment with due cognizance of the effect on their finances. The World Cup will come and go, but one’s financial status will remain what it has always been. That is one of the reasons why the Municipality has provided public viewing areas, so that people do not spend their hard-earned money to travel to other centres to watch the football. Let us therefore enjoy the World Cup responsibly and in a mature manner, and avoid ending up as casualties of 2010.
Madame Speaker, Buffalo City, especially the city of East London, has suddenly emerged as a safe haven for pornographic and other degrading material in the form of posters. When walking down Oxford Street, one is confronted with posters that advertise sexual stimulants, offers of abortion, medicines that are meant to strengthen one’s intimate relations, and a host of other graphic, distasteful and unspeakable services.
Let me hasten to explain that we are not by any means planning to interfere with legitimate business and trade ventures. But we are definitely concerned about the indiscriminate, illegal, and inconsiderate use of public places and lamp posts to advertise offensive messages of obscene and questionable services.
Last year Council approved the by-law on Outdoor Advertising Signs and the Disfigurement of the Front and Frontages of Street. The by-law was subsequently promulgated on 10 February this year, and promptly advertised in the Daily Dispatch and other national newspapers.
Section 18.104.22.168 of the by-law specifically states that no sign or advertisement may be designed or displayed that will display any material or graphic which, whether in form, content or both, may reasonably be expected to cause offence to the public or an identifiable sector of the public.
Armed with this and several other provisions of the by-law, the Planning and Economic Development standing Committee will be submitting to Council, in due course, the Draft Policy on Outdoor Advertising Signage for approval. Once this has been achieved, the onus will be on our Law Enforcement Unit to enforce the by-law, and in the process rid the city of the unsavoury and repugnant messages that have become a feature of our public areas.
Although there has been much denial about this, the Municipality has frequently been accused of practicing veiled favouritism in delivering services to our respective communities, with an alleged bias towards more affluent residential areas. For example, I have mentioned the grass-cutting backlogs experienced in Breidbach. But, Madame Speaker, it has been alleged that the same cannot be said of some areas in King William’s Town, where grass-cutting teams are deployed on a monthly basis.
If this and several other allegations are true, I officially call upon the responsible managers to ensure that this despicable practice is brought to a halt with immediate effect. All people are equal in Buffalo City. Our communities qualify for equal services from the Municipality. Service Delivery Overdrive does not discriminate between communities. We have to respect each and every citizen of Buffalo City, and ensure that they all get their fair share of the services that the Municipality provides.
Madame Speaker, I want to close by referring to the working relations that Buffalo City Municipality has established with the Royal House of Rharhabe in Mngqesha, because, to me, this is an important milestone in our resolve to work hand-in-hand with local traditional leadership. Already, we have begun utilizing this relationship to acquire education on traditional structures and protocols. The Directorate of Engineering is already working interacting with water quality consultants who were introduced to us by the Royal House.
I am of the opinion that it will be to our advantage to pursue these relations further, especially since they make it easier for us to reach out to traditional leaders as I have already mentioned that we will need them in developing a cohesive rural development blueprint. Perhaps, Madame Speaker, your office will also benefit from these links since, constitutionally, Council has to find a way of involving traditional leaders in its business.
To the people of Buffalo City I want to say, let us continue to hold hands and work together to make our city a happy and comfortable place to live in. Let us continue to honour our civic duty of paying for the services that we enjoy, and encourage one another to live in peace and harmony. Buffalo City is home to all; a city that has something for everybody.
I thank you.