ORGANISED business in Nelson Mandela Bay has expressed deepening concern over the ongoing ANC infighting in the region and has called for a speedy resolution to the governing party’s internal strife to avoid paralysing the city’s administration.
The call was made by newly elected Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber president Mandla Madwara during an exclusive interview yesterday.
Madwara is the first business leader in the city to openly condemn the strife in the ANC.
An ANC member and former councillor now operating a range of businesses in the city as well as serving on several boards, including that of the Boardwalk Casino and Entertainment Complex, Madwara assumed the presidency of the business chamber a week ago.
He said yesterday the unending strife within the ANC in the Bay was "extremely disconcerting” to business as it threatened local government stability and was proving detrimental to investor confidence.
"We are extremely concerned about the situation within the ANC, where there seem to be ongoing unresolved tensions between the ANC local headquarters and City Hall, as this not only has the effect of paralysing administration of the city but also reflects badly on us as a city to investors.”
He stressed the chamber enjoyed a relatively good relationship with the local government and shared certain initiatives, including investor promotions overseas, such as in China.
However, he said business was not at all pleased by the local authority’s performance – a situation not helped by the fact that the city continued to operate without a municipal manager.
"The capacity of some of the officials to undertake some of their duties is a big, big worry,” he said.
"The fact that we still do not have a permanent municipal manager is a major cause for concern.”
He said organised business would like to see local government also jacking up its act in terms of service turnaround times, particularly with regard to business application processing and approvals.
A key area requiring reconsideration was the management of zoning applications.
"I would like to see a situation where issues such as zoning powers are handed over to the municipal manager, so that somebody local or otherwise who wants to invest, say, R2-million to create a certain number of jobs does not have to wait 18 months for approval of the application when it could be done in 14 days,” he said.
"We need to be known as having a quick turnaround time in terms of processing business applications.
"The municipality must begin to come to the party by responding to business demands and create a conducive environment for investment and business growth by local and national investors.
"Then foreign direct investment can become the cherry on top.”
Madwara said he was not pleased with the city’s involvement with the African Nations Cup 2013 as it was a waste of taxpayers’ money and that consultation on the issue would have been in order.
"We are not in the business of bashing local government but these issues have to be spoken about and dealt with. We have issues about how taxpayers’ money is being used.
"Personally, I have a big issue with the city’s decision to host the Afcon 2013 and the R22-million to be spent over four games, when we have potholes all over the place.
"Cape Town is not hosting, Durban is not hosting – why are we looking to stage four Afcon games here?”
Madwara said the chamber would seek an opportunity to address its concerns with the ANC to also facilitate resolution of some of the challenges facing the municipality.
"In my tenure at the chamber, I would like that at least at some point we engage with the political parties and share our frustration about what is going on. Otherwise, it is an unhealthy situation that paints us in this city in a bad light among both local and national investors.”
Madwara said the chamber would be looking at reviewing its governance model, especially in terms of sharing of responsibilities within the structure. This was partly to address a growing public perception that the chamber had become dormant.
"The chamber is looking at reviewing its governance model so that it becomes a more effective chamber,” he said. "We would like to introduce some business activism beyond ordinary day-to-day activity.
"We have to review with a purpose of unleashing the potential of the leadership so that not everything rests on the CEO, yet without taking away the CEO’s executive powers.”
He said some of the issues would be dealt with by the chamber’s governance subcommittee, but a strategic session would also be held to deal with other related matters.