EThekwini requires renewed commitments to make it work again

Issued by Cllr Nicole Graham – DA EThekwini Caucus Leader
16 Sep 2019 in Press Statements

Note to Editors:  the following speech was delivered today by DA EThekwini Caucus Leader Nicole Graham, during today’s presser on DA’s outline priorities for eThekwini’s new Executive. She was joined by DA EThekwini Chief Whip Councillor Thabani Mthethwa

Find attached Nicole Graham’s English audio here, and Thabani Mthethwa’s Zulu audio here.

We are here today as members of the Executive Committee representing the Democratic Alliance (DA). The opposition holds four seats on the eThekwini EXCO, three of which are held by the DA. Our newest member, Councillor Yogis Govender, wasn’t able to join us as she is currently leading a delegation of Councillors to meet with the water department about the ongoing crisis of pipe bursts and outages.

Over the past ten days, we have been repeatedly asked by the media and members of the public whether we think things are going to improve in eThekwini and whether or not the city is on the right track. It is a complicated question, with many different things to consider. I think we are certainly better off without Gumede at the helm, but I also think there are concrete steps that need to be taken to get this city back on the right track.

At this stage, it is a mixed bag. The step to reinstate the Finance Committee- which we have been proposing since 2016- is a certain positive one. The city’s Finances need the greatest possible amount of scrutiny and attention, and we are very pleased that this was agreed to.

On the other hand, the current Mayor’s rhetoric about the former Mayor- how her team had done good work that needed to be continued- at his inauguration was very, very concerning. The failure of the new EXCO to heed our advice about the Tansnat/ Durban Transport issue, and to refuse our request to hold off on any fare increase until there was a way forward on the outstanding issues, is also a red flag.

We want to make it clear that it can’t be business as usual in eThekwini. This is a city in trouble and one that needs urgent steps to remedy key problem areas. It can’t be that the new leadership makes bold statements about change and progress without actually taking practical decisions and interventions to that deliver on those promises.

We have made it clear at all times that we will support and work constructively with anyone who is working in the best interests of this city and her people. We want to assist, provide solutions and enable change in eThekwini. That is our political agenda on EXCO. However, we will not drop our guard when it comes to being vigilant and holding the powers that be accountable.

The changing of the bus driver doesn’t necessarily change the route of the bus.

The first 100 days of the new Mayor and new EXCO’s term come to an end at the start of December, and we want to see action.

We have outlined what we believe is the city’s most critical matters that need to and can be addressed within this period. There are hundreds of different things we could talk about, but we believe this is the where the rubber hits the road, and where things have to change and change now if we are to get anywhere.

The first area that needs urgent attention is the state of corruption and accountability in this city. Effectively, officials and politicians have been doing whatever they like in eThekwini and getting away with it.

1 (a) The city needs to urgently act against those 62 councillors who were mentioned as working with Zandile Gumede and Mondli Mthembu to defraud the city. I am told that there has been some action by law enforcement, but the city needs to also play their role in uncovering who those Councillors are and what they have done. The Speaker’s Office and the Ethics Committee both have that responsibility and need to take decisive action.

1 (b) There needs to be a tracking mechanism to enhance accountability and oversight over the investigative reports of City Integrity and Investigations Unit. There are hundreds of reports with findings and recommendations that have just never been actioned, in contravention of our own Anti-Fraud and Anti-Corruption Policy.

This policy says that within ten days of receiving a report, the responsible head must respond and state their planned actions in that regard, and then publish a summary when the matter is concluded. This means that almost all departmental heads and senior officials violate our fraud and corruption policies.

We proposed to Council last month that their needs be a public tracking mechanism to see what reports deal with when they were concluded and sent to departments, and when departments actioned them. The mention was disallowed by the former Speaker. This is critical to get on top of what’s going on in this city.

2 (a) The second matter that needs urgent action is safety and policing. Although obviously, SAPS fall within other governmental mandates, eThekwini’s Metro Police are not doing enough to make Durban a safer place. In 2000, this Council took a resolution that MP would have 5000 officers by 2010. Almost 20 years on, and the force is less than half that, and simply not big enough to cope. There needs to be another meaningful recruitment process to recruit capable and effective officers, not ANC members or their family and friends as has been alleged in the past.

This has been done in the City of Johannesburg and Cape Town and is doable here.

2 (b) Our Metro Police needs more specialized capacity to effectively deal with drugs and violent crime. Former Acting Mayor Fawzia Peer announced a few months ago that Metro Police now has a drug unit, but we haven’t seen any tangible evidence or structure of this. Metro Police seem to have become focused on harassing homeless people, handing out parking tickets and protecting politicians.

3 (a) The city’s finances need attention. Primarily, we need to start recovering the debt that is owed to the city, predominantly by other government departments, parastatals, Tansnat and the Ingonyama Trust. We can’t continue to nail the average consumer but allow others to simply not pay and get away with it. Both the new Mayor and his deputy come from the Provincial Government, so hopefully will pop back in with the card machine and request them to pay what they owe us. If not, they must be cut off. We cannot continue to have decreasing revenue but rising debt and expect borrowing to save us.

4 (a) The provision of basic services in eThekwini needs to be prioritized and depoliticized. Water and sewerage are currently in a crisis state, with sewerage flowing into many of our rivers and onto roads and public spaces. The turnaround times for auctioning faults once reported is dismal, and the quality of work, oversight and repairs isn’t much better. People report waiting for days on end to resolve problems and queries, and often the same bursts and outages happen over and over again. Maintenance and workmanship are poor, and people and our environment are suffering. EThekwini Water and Sanitation used to be the prize jewel of the SA scene, used as a best practice example, and it’s a shadow of what it used to be.

4 (b) We are often inundated with complaints about the work and management of the Electricity Department. In short, there are serious problems with planning and procurement, as well as the payment and management of contractors. Just last week, I was again informed that faults contractors hadn’t been paid and weren’t working. Two weeks before, I was told a certain area had been without lights for ten days because the electrician went out with the wrong cable and didn’t come back, and that the correct cable wasn’t in stores. This is a city of almost 4 million people, who cannot be expected to be run by rank amateurs.

4 (c) DSW, the cash cow of the former city leadership, remains in a shambles. There is an urgent need for a proper audit of services, contractors and overall quality. Many of the contractors working within DSW were appointed for political purposes and are not doing what they are paid to do. Durban is filthy, which damages our tourism and growth potential. Communities like UMlazi and Inanda have received the worst end of this deal, with rubbish and mess piling up every other week.

5 (a) Public transport remains a serious concern. Tansnat, the bus operator, continue to owe eThekwini almost R400 million in terms of their agreement and the city are dragging their feet on a resolution. They have been on a month to month contract for ten years, but EXCO granted them another 8.85% increase on Friday. This is despite them claiming numerous items the city says they aren’t paying for, their debt, and the unconstitutionality of the current agreement.

5 (b) Moja Cruise, the city’s taxi incentive program which has cost over R200 million to implement, is showing no tangible difference to the industry. Despite being sold as an impressive program to improve taxi behaviour and put the power back in the hands of the consumer, no actual taxi behaviour, tracking or rating by consumers is considered when paying monthly stipends to those who participate. Taxis simply make money off eThekwini and continue as usual.

6 (a) Our housing department is failing to deliver in the quantities and quality that should be expected. A complete overhaul is needed to establish what’s going wrong and how we can fix it. We need to stop appointing incapable contractors for political reasons and ensure staff who manage rental stock, transit camps and the housing processes are capable and doing their work properly. Two weeks ago, I visited the Umbhayi Transit Camp in Tongaat. Over 700 people reside there, but only two of the five ablution containers work. The others have never even opened, but I can guarantee you someone is raking in money for their provision. People need to be treated with dignity, as we would treat our own families.

6 (b) The intervention and task team on homelessness has done some good research but hasn’t been able to implement any changes or programs. The city needs a unit, with a budget, to address the crippling scourge of homelessness. This is the best practice as in other metros- budgets, shelters, rehabs, concrete assistance- and needs to happen here.

7  The city’s economy remains stagnant, and the chances of finding a job in eThekwini look worse all the time. We believe that inspiring leadership, proper provision of basic services and the maintenance of infrastructure will all drastically boost business opportunities and investor confidence in eThekwini. Put plainly, people don’t want to invest in a city that is dirty, dangerous and corrupt. There is a lot more that can be done to ignite our economy, but primarily; we have to get back to basics.

Durban is a city with so much potential and opportunity. We have the most amazing climate and natural environment and a wonderful mix of diverse people and cultures. We have good access to the port, and this should be a thriving and prosperous place.

The new leadership of this city, of which we consider ourselves apart, can get things done and bring change, but it requires tangible action steps. We are putting these on the table and offering our best co-operation and commitment to this process. We look forward to the 100-day review, at the beginning of December, and will be closely tracking this progress.