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By Kouga Executive Mayor Horatio Hendricks

KEEP KOUGA GROWING

Kouga Growing SOMA

Keeping Kouga Growing in a sustainable way is non-negotiable. Providing the environment that stimulates economic growth is a core mandate of local government.

We are in the process of developing an Investment Incentive Policy to attract job creation investment into the local economy, with a specific focus on making it a preferred business destination.

The development of the Jeffreys Bay and Humansdorp CBD precinct plans are firmly underway.

The Spatial Development Plan has been redone to bring it in line with a 30-year vision and our Local Economic Development Plan has been revised to ensure we have an inclusive and growing economy.

With all these plans in place, we formed the foundation needed to attract national and foreign direct investment.

Economic growth

The effect of COVID-19 related lockdowns has had a severe effect on our local economy. Kouga is very dependent on seasonal tourists to support our economic growth.

Municipalities, who will best recover economically, will be the ones who can grow their SMMEs, as well as attract external investment.

The Tavcor Group, one of the oldest motor groups in the Eastern Cape and Port Elizabeth, has recently moved into the Kouga region. The branch is currently run remotely with plans to have a physical address soon.

The reason for their establishment in the Kouga area, is to create job opportunities and deliver affordable vehicles and services to potential clients.

The municipality further approved the launch of a first-of-its kind mobile biochar plant in Humansdorp earlier this year, that will create on-site jobs as well as sustainable income for about 50 SMMEs.

The plant will also enhance water security, while reversing land degradation.

One Blue Gum tree can consume 500 litres of water per day. It is, therefore, imperative that we eradicate Alien Invasive Vegetation in our area that is choking rivers and decimating the water table especially in areas affected by drought.

Kouga, in partnership with Sarah Baartman District Municipality and the Department of Small Business Development, hosted an SMME Roadshow in Jeffreys Bay in October last year to present the District Development Model, with a specific focus on SMME development.

The model is a planning style aimed at aligning, integrating and accelerating service delivery under one developmental plan per district.

The aim is to utilise the model to implement the Department of Small Business Development’s (DSBD) mandate of developing entrepreneurs and small enterprises, focusing on rural towns and townships.

The platform was also used to table the Township and Rural Entrepreneurship Programme (TREP). This programme is set to capacitate Local Economic Development practitioners and community development workers in using the SMME-SA portal.

It will also assist SMMEs, who have challenges with connectivity and internet access to register.

Considering the COVID-19 pandemic, more than 100 SMMEs took part in various workshops during the current financial year.

More of these programmes are to be rolled out for this year.

As mentioned before, we are also in the process of appointing a service provider to develop a precinct plan for the Jeffreys Bay and Humansdorp Central Business Districts.

The two CBD’s have been identified as a strategic investment node in the municipality’s LED strategy and Spatial Development Framework, the latter which is also under review.

The idea is to revive the CBD’s in partnership with role-players and, in doing so, to increase business and employment opportunities.

The development of fresh produce and craft markets at Jeffreys Bay and Hankey is also underway and will make it easier for entrepreneurs to connect with potential buyers.

Big potential investors have further started to approach Kouga, excited by improvements they have seen in the region and eager to play a role in growing our economy and opening job opportunities.

Together we can create and facilitate a conducive environment that builds inclusive local economies, sustainable employment and help to eradicate poverty.

Human Settlements

Economic growth inevitably leads to an influx of people and, with it, a greater demand for housing and rental opportunities.

Here too the municipality has a role to play and has proven, over the past three years, that we are willing and able to do so.

Housing projects were at a standstill for nearly 10 years, and it has been heartening to see the incredible progress that has been made since the election of this Council.

Kouga is set to boast affordable social rental opportunities soon in Jeffreys Bay.

Some 300 temporary and 20 permanent job opportunities will, furthermore, be created through this initiative.

The social housing programme was officially launched at the corner of Koraal and Dolphin Street in Ocean View, Jeffreys Bay on Monday, February 22. This will open rental opportunities for residents who earn between R1 500 and R15 000.

With construction of the first phase set to commence in the 2021/ 2022 financial year, the target is to deliver at least 1 500 rental units over the next five years.

Kouga is the only municipality in the Eastern Cape to have been selected for the municipal social housing support programme and one of only six local authorities countrywide.

The municipality has, furthermore, provided 172 Kouga families with brand new RDP houses in Pellsrus. The houses, which are part of the Pellsrus 220 RDP housing development in Jeffreys Bay, is the first housing development under construction in the area in more than ten years.

We plan to build another 139 RDP houses in Humansdorp soon.

The month thereafter history was made in the Gamtoos Valley, where ten local SMMEs have been employed by the municipality to build temporary shelters for beneficiaries of the upcoming Hankey RDP housing development.

In November 2020, 110 residents received the title deeds of their houses. This brings our distribution of title deeds to three thousand and sixty-five (3 056) property owners.

A total of one thousand seven hundred and ninety-three (1 793) building plans with an estimated combined value of over R1.267 billion were approved from July 2017 to December 2020.

Since March last year, the increase in submission of building plans can be contributed to the fact that Jeffreys Bay became the perfect digital nomad destination.

Financial growth

Despite the severe impact COVID-19 has had on the local economy and in particular the tourism industry, which has resulted in businesses like restaurants, accommodation establishments and activity related operations suffering, we have weathered the storm.

We budgeted for an 85% collection rate for the 2020/ 2021 financial year. To put this into perspective, we had a 96% collection rate in our draft budget for the specific financial year.

It is pleasing to report that at the end of December 2020, and six months into the financial year, our collection rate is at 91%. This shows how resilient our economy is, despite the challenges posed by COVID-19.

We will be increasing the budgeted collection rate for the remainder of the financial year. This increase will facilitate the resealing of more roads in Kouga, the installation of additional lights in areas prone to crime and ensuring we keep Kouga clean.

We thank the residents of Kouga who have continued to pay their municipal bills despite the hardships brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic.

We are, furthermore, pleased to announce that the municipality once again received a clean audit in our finances and have kept our Eskom bill up to date, despite the drop in collections during the financial year.

Kouga remains in a stable financial position and most of our creditors are now paid within 30 days, unlike in the past when many local businesses did not want to deal with Kouga due to fear of late payment or not getting paid at all.

We still have a long way to go, but if we continue to stand together and look out for each other, we will endure.

KEEP KOUGA CARING

Kouga Cares

Every problem has in it the seeds of its own solution. The problem of COVID-19 brought forth the seeds of a caring society that fought together against the spread of the virus.

Worldwide it will be remembered for one of the biggest international health crises in more than a century, with the COVID-19 pandemic ravaging lives and economies across the globe.

Kouga was not immune to the devastation, but what stood out was how all sectors of our community took hands to help steer our region and people safely through the storm. It once again showed how resilient and caring the people of Kouga are.

The municipality played a critical role in keeping Kouga on course through the storm, taking on far more than its mandated duty.

Since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March last year and the subsequent nationwide lockdown, Kouga has ploughed back close to R40 million into the community.

Apart from COVID-19 relief, the municipality has increased its adjustment budget by R31 million in September last year to improve service delivery in the region – one of only a few municipalities able to do so, if not the only.

A further R25 million has also been added to the 2021/ 2022 budget to take service delivery to even greater heights in the new financial year.

Relief measures included various payment relief for residents affected by the pandemic. Residents could have applied for reprieve on interest charges on overdue accounts from the start of the lockdown until December 31, 2020.

All debt collection measures have also been stopped for six months and blocked electricity meters were unblocked for the same period.

Other measures included a retrospective holiday, reprieve from interest on outstanding accounts, and a six-month payment arrangement.

In addition to the payment relief measures, the municipality secured 201 water tanks to help vulnerable communities combat COVID-19, extra chemical toilets were put in place, taxi ranks, pick-up points and public facilities have been sanitised.

A temporary homeless shelter had been established, and some fifteen thousand (15 000) food parcels were distributed. This amounted to almost 200 tonnes of food at a cost of R4.5 million.

I would like to thank our local business sector and community partners, as well as other spheres of government, for taking hands with the municipality to make this possible.

One hundred and ten Disaster Management volunteers were deployed to help keep Kouga communities safe from COVID-19. Their role was to encourage residents to adhere to the basic safety precautions. This is an ongoing programme.

Municipal law enforcement, security and traffic officers have been working with SAPS and private security companies to ensure residents and businesses adhere to lockdown regulations.

Apart from COVID-19 initiatives, new wheelchairs were donated to old age homes and individuals across Kouga.

Our sincere condolences and heartfelt sympathy to everyone who lost a family member or friend to COVID-19. I plan to build a plate of memorial, with all their names engraved, in their remembrance.

May their souls rest in peace.

CONCLUSION

I would like to thank the Speaker, my Mayoral Committee, the Municipal Manager, and all municipal staff for their hard work and unwavering dedication this past year to get Kouga one big step closer in becoming the best municipality in the Eastern Cape – if not the best in South Africa.

As we move towards local government elections 2021, and our term in political office draw closer to an end, I want to reflect on the sentiment of former US President, Barack Obama, in saying: “When we as a governing party started this term, we did not come here to fear the future, we came here to shape it”.

Over the last four years we turned the fortunes of a Municipality that was on the brink of collapse into a place of hope and possibility where the pursuit of happiness and prosperity is real for everyone.

We did this through grit and determination, by building trust and partnerships, and placing value on the social contract we formed with our people.

While there are many mountains we still need to climb, and a virus that we need to combat together, we are on track and determined to deliver a system of good governance through service excellence.

All while keeping Kouga safe, growing, and smart for all residents. Keeping our environment clean and green for generations to come and caring for our people from cradle to grave, from birth certificate to death certificate.

The support from our business sector, community-based groups and individuals has also been nothing short of amazing and we are confident that, with you by our side, no obstacles will ever be too big for us to overcome and build a strong and united Kouga.

I want to leave you with these words: “Wherever you send me, I will go. Whatever you ask of me, I will do. Let it not be my will, but the will of the people”.

Here is to Kouga – the next chapter.

I thank you.

EXECUTIVE MAYOY – HORATIO HENDRICKS