New Knysna Executive Mayor addresses the town

Good afternoon, Goeie Middag, Molweni emv’akwemini.

It has long been one of my passions to work hard towards the betterment of my fellow neighbour. I have a real love for the whole of Greater Knysna and am here to not just serve the constituents of Ward 6, whom I serve as Ward Counsellor, but all the people of Knysna. As a son of Knysna, I am honoured to be here today and I thank those that put their trust in me.

My focus in the coming months will be to bring about political and administrative stability, improving Knysna’s current trajectory. Due to the instability in political leadership, working with the ANC and KUC was an opportunity to stabilise the Council and focus on the important issues at hand. A long-time resident of Knysna, I have been involved in the political arena from 1993 when I first served on the then Transitional Local Council. I have seen the town prosper, and I’ve seen harder times, the last three years especially. As the Political Leader of Council, I want to assure you of our commitment to the residents of Greater Knysna – our actions will be guided and influenced with your wellbeing in mind.

A turnaround strategy for our financial woes is vital if we do not want service delivery to be affected. It is, however, important to note that we are not a bankrupt municipality, but are facing serious fiscal challenges. There are major three factors which have contributed to this situation. Firstly, the devastating fires of 2017. Poor financial decisions are the second reason for our current fiscal situation, and finally the effect of Covid-19 and the lockdown is another contributing factor that cannot be ignored. Steps already implemented to contain costs and curb spending include freezing all unfilled posts; curtailing travelling and subsistence costs; curtailing catering; and implementing strict budget control measures.

In terms of revenue enhancement, we are implementing strict credit control procedures and curtailing all capital projects funded internally and to collect outstanding grants. We will focus on strict consequence management with regards to the implementation of conditional grants to avoid internal funding being necessitated to complete projects.

Where housing developments have been erected on municipal land, these must be officially subdivided and transferred to their new owners to allow Knysna Municipality to begin recovering rates on services delivered to those properties. Rates must be collected for all services delivered to any particular property and actual readings must be taken, rather than relying on estimates. I would also like to suggest to Council that the rates and tariffs on vacant stands be revised to encourage development and to balance the payments made on built-up stands with those that are still empty.

Our recently completed data cleansing drive will assist in this regard and affect a positive impact on tariffs. The introduction of data profiling is vital to our debt collection approach. Being able to distinguish between, for example, our indigent residents, deceased estates and businesses will allow the municipality to focus on those customers who are currently able to honour their rates and tariff commitments.

A feasibility study must also be undertaken to assess the viability of selling key municipal properties and to identify those properties that will offer the greatest return on investment. These steps will have an immediate positive influence on the municipality’s revenue chain and cash flow management.

This turnaround strategy has been compiled to ensure that municipal resources are applied effectively, efficiently and economically. I believe that the municipality requires external capacity assistance, specifically with regards to our Revenue and Budget Sections. I will work with our new Acting Municipal Manager Dr Scheepers to address these issues.

In order for Council to gain the optimum value from awarded tenders, both Bid Evaluation and Bid Adjudicating Committees must be retrained to ensure that all requests for bids and tenders are worded properly, effectively and accurately to correctly reflect the needs and expected outcomes of each and every tender. These committees will be held accountable for their decisions and actions to ensure the fair and correct awarding of all tenders and contracts.

It is a fact that the biggest driving force of our economy is tourism. The COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent lockdown are having a disastrous effect on this industry and, by association, the economy. If we are realistic, we must expect that this will also affect future revenue. I think it is not unreasonable to say that we are in for a tough time and that it will take time to recover. On Wednesday I shall engage in talks with Provincial Treasury on ways in which they might assist us in rebooting our fragile economy.

Our immediate focus will be to bring a budget to the table for the 2020/2021 period that will reflect the needs and speak to all the people of Greater Knysna. In the light of the Municipality’s financial situation and the onslaught of the COVID-19 pandemic on our people and our economy, we urgently need an approved budget so we can get down to business. It is crucial that we approve a Budget before the start of the financial year, as legislation demands. If we do not, our poorest will become poorer and the town and this municipality will continue to suffer financially. As Executive Mayor, I shall act on my responsibilities and enter into talks with all parties to ensure we approve the Budget in time. We must all consider our responsibilities to our constituents and reach a consensus on this matter by Thursday.

(Heel eerste sal ons daarop fokus om n begroting vir die 20202/2021 tydperk na die tafel te bring wat alle inwoners van Knysna in ag neem.  As ons kyk na die stand van die Munisipaliteit se finansies en die impak van die COVID-19-pandemie op ons mense en ekonomie, is dit uiters belangrik dat die Raad n begroting so vinning as moontlik goedkeur sodat ons met die harde werk kan begin.) 

Dit is vir my van kardinale belang om nie die gemeenskap van Knysna teleur te stel nie. Dit is een van my grootste vrese om die mense wat al vir soveel lang jare liefde aan my getoon het, in die steek te laat. Knysna is nog altyd ‘n dorp wat uiterstes, waar ryk en arm naby aan mekaar woon. Ek hoop om die brug te wees wat hierdie uiterstes met mekaar verenig. Ek is daarop ingestel om nie net die inwoners se behoeftes eerste te stel nie, maar ook om nuwe en innoverende inisiatiewe te implementeer om groei en stabiliteit in ons gemeenskappe te bevorder. 

Knysna Municipality and Knysna Council are not at the epicentre of corruption. There is appropriate legislation and legal procedures to deal with instances of alleged corruption. Council have instituted action against a number of officials on receipt of allegations. However, it must be noted that these procedures exist to not only punish the persons involved, but to allow those officials who may be falsely accused of corruption to restore their names to dignity. I will ensure that these matters are dealt with swiftly and procedurally correct.

We are living in a hard-earned democracy. Pay tribute to those who fought for it by being involved with the decision making processes of the town by giving your input and to voice your opinion.  It is all very easy to give your opinion on social media, but if you are serious about making a difference get involved in our established participatory systems, legislated to enhance interaction between Council and the people it serves.

(Ons is dankbaar dat ons in n demokratiese land bly. Ons moet egter onthou dat baie mense met hulle lewens betaal het vir die voorreg en as respek vir wat hulle deurgemaak het, moet ons van ons demokratiese beginsels gebruik maak! Neem deel aan die wetlike munisipale prosesse en dra by tot die besluite wat die Raad en die Munisipaliteit maak. Dit is baie maklik om op sosiale media te kla, maar ons kan net iets verbeter as julle deelneem aan die beplanning.)

We can revive the economy, even if it will take time. Please stay home and only go out for necessities. Follow the precautionary rules and keep in mind that taking care of yourself is also caring for others.

Thank you to Deputy Mayor Cllr Aubrey Tsengwa for his leadership under difficult circumstances. I also want to welcome our new acting Municipal Manager Dr Louis Scheepers – I look forward to working with him on improving our fiscal position, and on an innovative plan for an accelerated re-start for the Knysna economy.  

Thank you

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