THE BITOU TURNAROUND STRATEGY

Minister Donald Grant

Democratic Alliance Western Cape Bitou Constituency Head

The health of any municipality can be determined by looking at, among other things, the capacity of that municipality to develop and implement a credible strategic plan that creates sustainable opportunities for the citizens it is mandated to serve so that they may live a life they value. A healthy municipality is one that is capable of and committed to using public resources to deliver subsidised services to the poor, provide ratepayers with value for money and create an enabling environment for investment.

When the DA, in coalition with COPE, took office in Bitou in 2011, it became increasingly clear that the Bitou Municipality, after more than a decade of being run by the ANC, was in poor health and on the brink of collapse in a number of respects. No amount of explaining or distortion of this conclusion by the ANC will fix the problems in Bitou.

Under the leadership of Mayor Memory Booysen and his team, an ambitious turnaround strategy has been developed and is now being implemented to nurse Bitou back to good health. This strategy includes the following:

1. To cut back on the massively inflated bureaucracy employed by the ANC administration and to strengthen the financial and operational capacity of the Bitou Municipality, Mayor Booysen and his team have developed a new organisational structure for the municipality that will see an appropriately-sized bureaucracy working in terms of clear and purposeful job descriptions. This important step will assist the municipality in avoiding the payment of excessive salary increases to underutilised or underperforming officials (as was the case previously under the ANC administration where salaries increased dramatically from R50 million in 2007 to R 90 million in 2011).

1. To strengthen the financial capacity of the Bitou Municipality, a number of major cutbacks have been effected to the adjustment budget implemented for the last six months of the financial year (until 31 May 2012) and councillors have agreed not to take salary increases for the 2011/2012 financial year.

1. The DA, in coalition with COPE, recognises the importance of the tourism industry to the economic development of Bitou. To create an enabling environment for investment in Bitou and to create sustainable opportunities in the local tourism industry for the people of Bitou (particularly those living in poverty and those looking for jobs), Memory Booysen and his team are consulting with all relevant stakeholders in the Bitou community with the support of existing local tourism associations to establish a new apolitical tourism association mandated to develop and growth the Bitou tourism industry. Consultations are expected to be completed by the end of June 2012 so that the new tourism association may be operational from July 2012.

1. To create an enabling environment for investment in Bitou, steps are being taken to make the Plettenberg Bay Airport fully functional and operational. Following the closure of the airport several years ago, the Bitou Council recently appointed Indiza Airport Management as the preferred service provider to immediately operationalise the airport; ensure infrastructure compliance with applicable aviation regulations; schedule flights; and manage the marketing of the airport. If all goes well, the airport could be operational within the next seven to eight months.

1. To stimulate economic growth in Bitou and to create jobs that are supportive of but independent of the local seasonal tourism industry, a feasibility study is being undertaken to investigate the possibility of establishing and operationalising a small boat harbour in Bitou. A proposal in this regard was never properly considered by the ANC administration.

1. To ensure that the Bitou Municipality delivers on its commitment to efficient service delivery, Mayor Booysen and his team are implementing a road maintenance programme. Serious neglect of Bitou’s roads by the previous administration has left potholes in all major roads in the municipality and has contributed to the deterioration of road infrastructure in the area. With the assistance of the Western Cape Government, funds have been allocated to the repair and maintenance of these roads. All major potholes have been filled and a five-year roll out plan has been put in place to upgrade the remaining roads.

1. To prevent any further violence and damage to property in Bitou, SAPS reinforcements were arranged and sent to Bitou last week. Western Cape Minister of Community Safety, Dan Plato, has reported that 36 arrests have been made to date following criminal cases that were opened as a result of the recent violence in Bitou. Furthermore, eight of those arrested appeared in the Knysna Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday 10 April 2012 and were refused bail. These developments will assist in holding accountable those responsible for the recent violence in Bitou which has devastated a number of businesses in Bitou. We would like to thank SAPS for its support in this regard.

Mayor Booysen and his team are confident that this turnaround strategy, with the support of the Bitou community and all relevant stakeholders (including SAPS), will go a long way in nursing the Bitou Municipality back to good health so that the poor may benefit from subsidised services, so that ratepayers may benefit from cost-efficient services, and so that Bitou may become sustainable from both a social and an economic perspective.

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