By Dr. Chris Ettmayr | BKCOB President
With the retirement of Les Holbrook, the BKCOB appointed Invest Buffalo City Project Manager, Drayton Brown, as Acting Executive Director up until the end of June 2021. Drayton has been doing a great job and I am sure that many of our members have already been interacting with him and our Chamber staff on a number of new and exciting projects.
We have also ushered in a large number of new members who have brought in great new focus areas for the Chamber to zoom into and its always of assistance to get fresh ideas that keep us on our toes.
Something that has come to our attention from new members, long standing members and the general public, are issues that are being experienced with Buffalo City as well as Komani which highlight a lack of service delivery as well as exorbitant costs. Both these cities are experiencing water and power issues, coupled with overbilling, incorrect billing as well as a lack of billing.
The Chamber has stepped in to collect incorrect water bills from businesses and raised this with BCMM. To date, we have assisted 87 businesses to get a total of over R500 000 credited back to them by the municipality . Poor service delivery in Waste Management, combined with BCMM having the highest electricity rates of all the South African Metros is impacting on the cost of doing business as well as the general desire to live in the city and raise families in this environment.
It has also been noted that the reduction in flights and flight operators to East London is impacting on the tourism market, as well as business costs to operate in the city or in working from East London. The city and port itself also received the news that Transnet’s head office is now relocating to Port Gqeberha (Port Elizabeth), with plans underway to develop the rail line from Johannesburg to Gqeberha which will have an impact on East London in the long term. Whilst the Chamber will raise these issues with the National Transnet body, work must be undertaken to quickly improve the current status of BCMM and Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality, themselves.
A separate task team to discuss legal options about Komani is being formulated, where the BKCOB will seek advice on how to create a positive change for the residents of that area. Similarly, discussions have been underway with BCMM, particularly about drinking in public spaces and on the beaches, which usually results in a number of broken glass bottles and discarded tins being left to pollute our beaches and parking lots. Litter and pollution are a direct consequence of poor management of citizens and it indicates a disregard for the law and metro bylaws. If East London is to attract young, bright talent and families to live in the city, it will need to do much more in terms of their services and control over citizens who have no respect for rules or the environment.
The city must show that it is well governed and the BKCOB will assist as far as possible, with honest support and participation needed from the city. To this extent, the Chamber has held very positive engagements with the city and some ideas and suggestions have already been accepted for piloting. For example, the poor turnaround times in the processing and approvals of building plans is ready to migrate onto an electronic format which would hopefully result in the unlocking of a number of planned buildings and construction projects, which will help beautify the city with new and modern infrastructure as well as create much needed construction jobs and work in related services and products.
We are a Chamber that is concerned about the states of BCMM and EMLM, and we will be actively engaging with citizens, business and government officials alike to effect the change that we all deserve.