/ 8 March 2024

Time for the Bay to get on with legacy programmes

Bugs 2

The legend goes, a former CEO of the MBDA had grabbed a lift with a city councillor on the way back to city hall, and as they drove past the old, dilapidated Tramways building, the councillor quipped: “CEO, we need to find the owners of this building and fine them for the state it is in; it is undermining the urban renewal efforts of the city.” The then CEO replied: “Councillor, the building is yours.” One can imagine the awkwardness in that moment.

From 2011, the Tramways was redeveloped by the MBDA for the purpose of stimulating urban renewal of the lower Baakens valley and the entity moved in sometime in October 2015. Since completion, the Tramways has hosted everything from weddings, markets, product launches, concerts, graduations and so much more. Fast-forward nearly 10 years since opening its doors, on Tuesday, 27 February, the Tramways temporarily hosted the seat of local government, hosting an inaugural municipal council meeting.

The significance of this moment is not lost to us because, for the first time, the landlord took occupation of their own asset, rented to the MBDA. Considering the recent challenges between the two entities, we see this as a step in a positive direction, a historic moment and an opportunity to rebuild strong relations. We look forward to more positive engagements with the city because negativity only benefits those who do not appreciate progress. The enemies of progress will always attempt to keep our attention trapped in drama, because that is when they thrive. It is critical that Nelson Mandela Bay moves forward and out of the quarrelling spiral that hampers development.

The second significant moment and the most encouraging was the change of language from the highest office, that the city needs a long-term plan that inspires citizens to take pride and thrive. The executive mayor spoke about legacy initiatives that will be directed from his office under his close inspection. This to us is encouraging because it marks a change in step, which many citizens have long been waiting for. One of these legacy projects mentioned is the establishment of a safe smart city through integrated technology and visible law enforcement. The use of fibre-linked cameras to dedicated control rooms and dispatchable rapid response teams is what our city needs more, especially within the tourism nodes and business precincts, which are revenue-generating hubs for the city.

The city will be glad to know that the MBDA is already a step ahead of the game. When I arrived at the MBDA, I halted initiatives that were not providing value for money and one of those was the old-fashioned structure of the security service. We then developed an integrated approach, which combines smart technology elements, visible enforcement through dedicated patrols and rapid response. We went to the market to source experienced service providers, and these teams are on standby to plug and play to activate the intentions of the city, immediately.

It is established fact that integrated technology and sufficiently trained boots on the ground can detect and respond to criminal activity at higher response rates. The rampant vandalism of public infrastructure that goes without a trace would be a thing of the past when we implement smart asset tracking devices. These vandal-proof systems are already in place in some parts of the city, such as outer university campus precincts. In central, our service providers already have established systems, such as number plate recognition camera technology and state-of-the-art control rooms. These accredited facilities are integral in the prosecution of crime because of the compatibility with admissible evidence standards.

A safe and secure city is the foundation for economic development and the prosperity of its citizens. It is important for the city to avoid the mistake made in 2016 post elections when the MBDA security programme budget was scrapped, a decision that led to widespread vandalism of public art installations, a rise in bad buildings and the reintroduction of criminal syndicates that have since taken over once beautiful environmental upgrades such as Parliament, Bird Street and the Donkin reserve. We support the work of our partners, the Central SRA, and the mushrooming of Chamber clusters, but all of this requires the hand of government to be sustainable; business cannot do it alone.

We are hopeful that the visionary language coming out of city hall and the intent on legacy programmes will soon come to fruition. The MBDA is committed to put shoulder to the wheel to support the shareholder; after all, the MBDA is a creature of council. Nelson Mandela Bay must stop waiting for successes in other cities, but must lead the way in honour of our namesake, tata Madiba.