Grahamstown Business Forum
2018/9 Annual Report
Richard Gaybba, Chair
As stated in almost all the previous chairman’s reports, we as a voluntary organisation suffer from capacity problems. The organisation has been run by a dedicated committee and had the professional support and guidance of Ingrid Brown. I want to thank my committee and Ingrid for their support and dedication.
GBF & Others vs Eskom & Others
Perhaps the most prominent issue tackled this year was the case between the GBF & Others and Eskom & Others which, in essence, kept the lights on and forced the implementation and monitoring of a payment plan. So far, Makana has stuck to the payment plan, and the once ballooning debt is now under control. Furthermore, they have also been communicating and reporting back to us on a monthly basis. While the GBF, GRA, Beer Properties and PnP Grahamstown played a pivotal role in bringing the application, the real heroes are the legal teams which consisted of Brin Brody, Izak Smuts, and Gavin Brown supported by the professional staff at Wheeldons, Rushmere and Cole.
The chair’s role filled with “stakeholder engagement”. Every year I am dumbfounded by the extent of NGOs, Government Departments, investors, media and research bodies seeking ideas, opinion, meetings, and direction. This is a key function to ensure that they are given the correct information and that business interests are considered. My view is that we almost need a fully-fledged “agency” of sorts that would deal with these types of enquiries, meetings, workshops and events.
The Kagiso Trust
I am confident that by now you would have heard of the Kagiso Trust and their intervention in Makana Municipality. Whilst I believe the Kagiso Trust and its intervention needs a report of their own, the GBF has been pivotal in facilitating the process and proving support. They have also guided the trust on various issues (matters). Briefly, at this stage the Kagiso intervention is dealing with three areas namely; revenue management, indigent management, and local economic development. The full scope of the project and more reports should be available in early 2020.
Rates & Valuation Roll
July 2019 was the implementation date of the 2018 valuation roll. The roll itself was, in my view, defective in process and substance. The GBF, GRA, Kim Webber, Gill Meyer, Dave Rodgerson, and others worked tirelessly at fighting the implementation of this roll. While I still believe the whole roll should have been redone, we ended settling with a substantial supplementary roll which addressed some of the issues.
Where are we as a City
Thinking back to this time last year, we did not have a Municipal Manager or a CFO. Counsellor Gaga was still in office, and our relationship with her was very strained. Thankfully all three positions were filled, and Mr Mene, Mr Goliath and Cllr Mpalwa have been engaging and supportive. In our view, their arrival, on the whole, has been positive. In my view, the arrival and appointment of the abovementioned has proven to have a positive impact on the municipality as a whole.
Serious challenges exist when we look at the infrastructure. Our roads, landfill, electricity, water and sanitation, are all in a dire state. Makana, along with other spheres of government, has been trying to secure funding and start, and in some cases, complete projects to address these issues. However, realistically these initiatives are slow and not always a success.
Governance and management have improved, but we are are still a long way from where we need to be. It is imperative that we have a strong and active civil society to ensure that we keep the municipality to account.
Whilst the GBF is under capacitated and could do more, we play a pivotal role as the only active voice of business in the city. Without a doubt our existence has, at times, stopped significant catastrophes.
As much as we would love to take a back seat, the stakes are too high. Now more than ever, we need to keep the momentum going and keep the pressure on those responsible for managing the city. Knowing that this is not the intended function of the forum, it has become an important one.
Hopefully, in 2020, new leaders will emerge, and we will grow in capacity and start being able to communicate better and arrange events for our members.
Please feel free to contact us at any stage with ideas, suggestions or comments.