23 February 2021 Executive Mayor’s Speech – GRDM Council Meeting

Executive Mayor’s Speech – GRDM Council Meeting on 23 February 2021

Mr Speaker, you’ve alluded to the fact that we lost one of our members and it is so profound that it is written in the Scriptures that there will be a time to come and there will be a time to go. We are not immune to this as a Garden Route District Municipality (GRDM). We have lost quite a few of our members, political colleagues, staff members and many of us have lost loved ones. Indeed it will never ever be the same here for us again and we will always look back at this period in history and remember the people that we lost due to various circumstances.

What I do want to highlight is that on behalf of Council, our condolences have gone out to the Saayman family – we have engaged with them.  I want to announce that this is the first official meeting where Cllr Saayman will not be present again. Also, this coming Thursday it will be the late Cllr Saayman’s memorial service. Communication will go out to everyone and also to the rest of the people in the Garden Route who would like to join the memorial service of our late Cllr Saayman.

Mr Speaker I would also like to welcome our adopted staff members from the Human Settlements Department in the Western Cape who are now stationed with us. Ms Shehaam Sims and Mr Joel Mkunqwana – I would like to welcome you both.  I know that they are already rock stars. Following last week’s press conference, my phone has already rang off the hook – probably theirs as well. In terms of the new breakthrough we have made as the Garden Route, it is obvious that we have been very busy behind the scenes until it was made public last Friday of what we were busy with.

Ourselves together with the Minister for Human Settlements, MEC Tertuis Simmers and his staff, who I have mentioned before, formed part of the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement (MoA).  Mr Speaker, as I was saying, our telephones have been non-stop ringing which is a key indication that we have already stepped into a gap where people want information. We are very excited of what might lie ahead in terms of our engagements with the Western Cape Government Human Settlements Department. We can’t wait to showcase to the rest of the Western Cape and South Africa how cooperation between district municipalities and local municipalities can benefit everyone.

We’re not going to pretend that there are not serious questions emanating from this historic event.  We’re not going to get tired to explain to people how it will work and we will engage with the local municipalities to resolve any uncertainties. However, I do need to reiterate that we are not planning to take away the role or mandate of local municipalities we are partnering with, because we want to make sure that everyone benefits. In particular, I refer here to those who want to be beneficiaries in the human settlements space – we want everyone to benefit regardless of their status in life.

On the very same Friday last week, we, as the GRDM also official opened the Garden Route Food Pantry. This is something that was debated about for quite some time. This initiative was triggered by the after-effects and unintended consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic. Mr Speaker this is a wonderful R1.3 million that spans over a period of three years, but knowing the value of the Rand, it might fluctuate from time-to-time. In addition, there are ongoing discussions that the purpose is to feed the needy and to make sure that there is dignity in each and every household in the Garden Route. More importantly, to make sure nobody goes to bed without not having had a meal. Again, I’m reinforcing what I’ve said I the presence of all other Mayors, this is to compliment what is happening at a local level. We are aware that there are soup kitchens and homes where people feed communities from their own kitchens. This intervention is to complement what they’re doing. Even bigger, if there is a need, we can distribute supplies from this food pantry to them as well.

Mr Speaker, we are busy dealing with the contributions as well. We are busy finalising all the nitty gritty details regarding the financial model of this.  There is already a model where each and every municipality we have to contribute. They are dealing with that within their own jurisdictions. We’re contributing as a district municipality.

Mr Speaker I want to highlight – no good deed should go unnoticed. I did not get permission to do this, but because it is something that presents a significant impact, we would really like to say to Mr John Lombard that we really appreciate his contribution of thousands of Rands to the Garden Route Food Pantry. He’s been leading by example. Mr Lombard, on behalf of the GRDM, all the local municipalities and all the residents of the Garden Route, we really acknowledge and salute you – you’re setting the tone and we will definitely follow suit.  Also, Mr Speaker, I want to put a challenge to all the Councillors and officials – charity begins at home. We need to lead by example, I am putting out this challenge to all of us that there is also a part that is linked  to this project where anyone can buy a brick for R100.00 per month. A person can either sign a debit order or a stop order or pay it in person. I want everyone to sign up for at least one year. Individuals can write their names against a brick inside the Food Pantry building. If it is more than R100, a person can write details on more bricks. So, in essence, a person can write their own name, their family, children etc. A person can start their own dynasty there where a person can have ten (10) “Stratu” bricks for example. That would be an indication that we do support his and that it is a combined effort that we support this cause. If we can do it, if Mr Lombard can do it, if municipal employees can do it, especially the Councillors of the Garden Route – we should all follow suite.

What is also very exciting to me, again, is something coming on for months and years. It is the issue where Inter-governmentally everyone always disputes property ownership amongst their partners in all three spheres of government. There is always that dispute where we own pockets of land and some municipalities feel that such land belongs to them. This is not a battle that we want to get involved in, instead, in that space we want to form partnerships. Mr Speaker, today is going to be another historic signing between the Garden Route District Municipality and Mossel Bay Municipality where we will go and sign mutual agreements between the two municipalities in terms of us transferring properties to them and they transferring properties to us. Some of the properties will be utilised in a way where we will jointly develop these properties for a better Garden Route as a district. I would like to encourage all municipalities who have this in the back of their minds that they are gearing themselves to fight the Garden Route. We will come to you, negotiate and ensure that it is a win-win situation.

You know, no matter what we’re going through as a country, all our problems and difficulties that we are experiencing as a district and a country. One thing I’ve learned is that one of the solutions is the education of our youth.  Last night we listened to the announcement of the results of the 2020 Matriculants. I want to congratulate those who have made it on behalf of the Garden Route. I would also like to say to those who have not made it – it is not the end of the world. Regard it as an opportunity. Go and re-write, there is always room for improvement. We also want to thank you to the parents who have endured for long hours as well. They’ve endured long hours, in some instances during loadshedding. They’ve really pulled through – congratulations to everybody. So, once again, even though someone did not pass, I encourage those to go back and re-write so that there is a better future for everyone.

I thank you.