A new future for uMngeni starts today

22 Nov 2021 in Press Statements

Note to Editor: This was the speech made by the newly elected uMngeni Mayor, Christopher Pappas during the inauguration in Howick. See photos here, here, here, here,here.

 

Leader of the Democratic Alliance, John Steenhuisen (in absentia)

MEC Ravi Pillay (in absentia)

DA KZN Leader, Francois Rodgers

Members of Parliament

Members of Provincial Legislature

Councillors

Traditional leaders

Religious leaders

Business Leaders

Acting Municipal Manager of uMngeni Municipality, Mr Buthelezi

Madam Speaker

Former mayors and councillors

Honoured guests

Ladies and gentlemen

 

Good afternoon, Sanibonani

 

There is a struggle song that is often sung in KZN, yinde lendlela esihambayo, washo uMandela kubalandeli bakhe wathi sizohlangana ngeFreedom Day.

 

Freedom is a concept that many of us interpret as the ability to vote or the absence of restriction. We go to the polls, therefore we are free. In this simple definition we are indeed all free.

 

In reality we must ask ourselves if we are truly free. If we live in dirty communities, are we free? If our businesses cannot flourish through no fault of your own, are we free? If our children and our grandchildren are in all probability going to be locked into a cycle of unemployment and poverty, are we free?

 

As the American writer William Faulkner said, “We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.”

 

Therefore, freedom without opportunity is not truly freedom. Ukuba nenkululeko kodwa amathuba engekho akusiyoni inkululeko yangempela.

 

Access to opportunities is what gives meaning to our hard won freedoms. Access to opportunities is what I believe Faulkner means when he talks about practicing freedom.

 

Ukuvota ukusiyona inkululeko. Akusiyona inkululeko umasilala silambile noma abantwana bedlala endaweni engcolile. Ukuba nenkululeko kusho ukuthi umuntu nomuntu uyakwazi ukuphumelela empilweni ngoba amathuba namathluzi okuzithuthukisa akhona.

 

A dysfunctional government robs people of opportunities and therefore robs people of freedom. In uMngeni we have not yet realised true freedom.

 

There is no doubt that our municipality has suffered for many years. Mismanagement, corruption, maladministration, cadre deployment, skewed priorities, the lack of consequence management and political infighting… These are some of the terms, the illnesses that we have endured. While politicians were fighting each other, our communities got poorer, dirtier, and decay set in. Those with the power to change people’s lives worried more about positions and protecting friends then they did about the people of uMngeni.

 

This administration will be different. We must be different. We will stand with the hardworking, freedom-loving people of the KZN Midlands. Those who want to live and raise their families in safe communities, support each other, work hard, play by the rules, reap the rewards for their efforts and build communities where all people, regardless of our backgrounds, make progress together. We will do this by focusing on 5 key priorities.

 

1) Building safer communities (ukwakha imiphakathi ephephile)

By building partnerships with the SAPS, CPFs, community initiatives and private security, we will start to push back against lawlessness and criminality. We will strengthen our own internal law enforcement mechanism and better use technology to fight crime. This includes our rural areas and farming communities. Learning from our successes in the Western Cape where they are left to fend for themselves as the nationally run SAPS slowly collapses, we will work to roll out support for local initiatives and beef up our own capabilities.

2) Waste management and the environment (Ukuthuthwa kwemfucuza nokunakekela imvelo)

We must live in clean communities and we must actively look after the one resource that is not renewable, our planet. We will increase our capacity to collect and manage waste with a strong focus on recycling. Waste collection must be regular and reliable. Cleaning up Mpophomeni is an important part of this plan. Our refuse site must operate efficiently and we must prepare for the time when the site reaches capacity. By partnering with working for fire, working on water and other projects, we can not only protect our environment but create jobs as well. Partnership building will be a cornerstone of how we take uMngeni forward.

3) Infrastructure investment and maintenance (Ukunakekelwa kwezingqalasizinda kanye nokutshalwa kwezimali)

This administration will focus heavily on roads, storm water, street lights, and in conjunction with Eskom and the district, electricity, water and sanitation. We must ensure that we can drive on our roads, that there is water in the pipes more often than there is not, and that the Howick CBD does not flood every time it rains. We will rigorously attend to the issue of the electricity in Hilton to ensure that those residents do not sit in constant darkness. Infrastructure must be at the core of building confidence amongst investors and making uMngeni a good place to live and play.

4) A growing economy and job creation (Imisebenzi nokukhuliswa komnotho.)

There are too many unemployed people, there are too many barriers to start a business, and there is too much uncertainty for investors to confidently choose uMngeni. We must make it easy for investors to choose uMngeni as their preferred place of business. We will do this by reducing red tape, building attractive incentive packages, ensuring that our infrastructure can support development and leveraging municipal buying power to stimulate the local economy. In this regard: local is lekker. Local contracts must first and foremost benefit local businesses. Far too much of our municipal budget is spent outside of uMngeni. Our focus must be on ensuring that as many people as possible can put bread on the table and pay their bills; because jobs bring dignity. Amathuba emisebenzi aletha isithunzi. Our economic plan has a strong focus on tourism and agriculture and the linkages to these sectors. Our long term goal is to establish an Agricultural Industrial Development Zone and make the KZN Midlands a centre of agricultural excellence in KZN. In doing so, we must work harder for and invest more in small scale and developmental farmers. Other key sectors for our economy will be sustainable and equitable property development as well as supporting township entrepreneurs. This will be done through capacitating the relevant departments and building sustainable partnerships. Howick falls must once again become the bustling attraction that it once was. Tourism as a whole has the potential to create thousands of jobs and get our economy moving. Destination marketing, maintaining our tourism assets and support community tourism initiatives will feature as a strong part of our LED plan. In the long term we must look to other DA-run municipalities who have started to implement plans to limit the effects of the rolling blackouts. These blackouts have a devastating effect on our economy. I want to say to businesses looking to move out of KZN or out of Msunduzi, rather come to uMngeni, we are ready to receive you. We are ready to be your partner.

5) A transparent and responsive government (Uhulumeni ovulelekile osebantwini ngezikhathi zonke nongenamfihlo)

For too long our municipality has operated in the shadows with documents and decisions being hidden or are being hard to access. Our services centres are outdated and under capacitated. We must ensure that this trend stops and that the administration truly becomes a government for the people. We will open up the tender process to the public, we will ensure that job opportunities are given in a fair and transparent manner and we will ensure that there is constant communication with our employers, who are the residents of uMngeni. We will work to increase the capacity of the call centre and fault reporting mechanisms. In general, we must ensure that our municipality can deliver because it has capacity to do so. Part of ensuring this will be a skills audit. Importantly, we will bring an end to the crippling system of cadre deployment in uMngeni. Sizoqeda ukuqashwa ngokwezihlobo nobungani.

 

Our 16-page manifesto covers a wider range of plans that we look to implement and initiate. We have called this our BluePrint for Change and we intend on being guided by it and for it to find expression in the Integrated Development Plan.

 

The people of uMngeni have endorsed these plans by giving the DA a 13 seat majority in council. I would like to take this opportunity to thank DA voters for coming out to vote for us. I would also like to thank those voters who put their trust in the DA for the first time.

 

These plans would not be possible without stable municipal finances. Our first goal is to stabilise the deteriorating state of municipal finances. This must happen through rigorous cost cutting and reprioritisation. We cannot be building stadiums when there are no roads to drive on and our street lights are not working. Our priorities will indeed be shifting from the nice to haves to the basics: the core deliverables of local government. Of course, it goes without saying that when we talk about bringing stability to the municipality’s finances, we will pursue an anti-corruption agenda. This includes scrapping dodgy contracts, rooting out those who have aided in the theft, investigating current and past deals, and ensuring that those in charge of service delivery are not dipping their fingers into the pot. This may be a painful and time consuming process but it is imperative that a new culture of service and accountability take hold. Gone are the days of flashy events, spending on nice to haves and wasting rate payer’s money.

 

While the rumours of 30 staff members resigning and the DA forcing people to resubmit CVs are not true, it is important that I set the record straight from the beginning. We are not entering into a witch hunt; we are not intending to fire every municipal official. Our goal is to bring stability to the uMngeni municipality, modernise the work place, ensure that the tools of trade are available for our employees and that we root out political interference. We want the administration to be part of the success story that is being written. I am certain that many municipal employees are excited to usher in an era where they are able to get things done. But let me also be clear, we will not tolerate trouble makers, those looking to further their political careers by causing instability and those looking to boost their retirement packages by stealing from our communities. We will also not leave Auditor-General or internal audit reports to gather dust. Accountability and consequence management must be institutionalised. I want to be totally unambiguous with regard to my philosophy of treating professional civil servants professionally.  I will ensure that there will be no political interference in the professional work space and that each and every official will be treated fairly and with respect. In return I will expect the highest standard of professionalism and dedication from each and every official.

 

To our colleagues in the ANC and EFF. I look forward to working with you. I hope that our debates and conversations can be open, honest and respectful. My door is always open to listen to your ideas, concerns and advice. We all have a duty to ensure that the lives of the people of uMngeni get better – not worse. As leaders in your own right, you are part of this journey and I am sure that we will find each other more often than not.

 

I know that the eyes of the media, our opponents and South Africans’ in general are on uMngeni. I know that despite there being 43 other municipalities in this province, the focus will be on uMngeni for the next 5 years. Our job is to prove that the residents of KwaZulu-Natal do not have to be in an abusive relationship with their local government and that change in KZN is possible. uMngeni will be our beachhead. We must be open and honest, this will not happen overnight. The challenges are many and the time and resources are few. But we have no choice but to succeed. We entered this not for status but for sacrifice: that became our motto during this historic election campaign and it will carry through into our term of office.

 

Fortunately for the people of uMngeni, the DA is not only a party of opposition but a party of government. We will draw on our success in Cape Town, Midvaal, Kouga, Mossel Bay and many others to inspire and guide us. The policies of an open opportunity society will find expression through our style of government, programmes and plans. Our government will be efficient, lean and professional.

 

The project to save uMngeni started many years ago when current member of parliament Greg Krumbock told people that it was possible to bring change to uMngeni. He had a vision. And for this we must thank Greg.

 

It would not be right of me not to acknowledge and thank the Democratic Alliance. Umbotho wabantu yentando yeningi. Led by Francois Rodgers and Dean Macpherson in KwaZulu-Natal, I would like to thank the DA for the opportunity that we are presented with to change people’s lives in our small corner of the country. And against all odds and the naysayers, to govern outright in KwaZulu-Natal: our 4th Province where we are in government. Thank you also to our Federal Leader John Steenhuisen who joins us here today and to the entire DA machine for getting behind our mission. The political landscape has dramatically shifted in this election and the DA is firmly placed at the centre of building a united, democratic, non-racial and free South Africa.

 

There are many who have been a part of this journey and I would like to thank everyone of you.

 

Change, though constant, is never easy, especially when one political party has been so dominantly hegemonic for so long. This is an incredibly exciting time in our political history, as we begin a new phase and will endeavour to free ourselves from the impact of decades-long maladministration and corruption that have bequeathed us with record unemployment and poverty.

 

From Shiyabazali, Hilton and Hawkstone to Mpophomeni, Lidgetton and Nottingham Road our administration is ready to lead the people of uMngeni towards a future of hope. We aim to give you the opportunities to put freedom into practice. Even if the road is long and hard (noma yinde indlela) we are up to the task.

 

In conclusion, I would like to share this with you. While sitting in my living room watching the votes come in I put a post on Facebook. This post said, “in the heart of KZN there is blue diamond emerging…watch this space.”

 

Indeed all eyes are on uMngeni, we are open for business, we are ready to bring change, sizonyakazisa, sizophumelela, watch this space…

 

I thank you.