Showing posts with label Newcastle Mayor. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Newcastle Mayor. Show all posts

#Newcastle and #Amajuba Mayor - Man and Town on a Mission











Rowan Philip, The Witness

Pietermaritzburg - Twenty municipalities in KwaZulu-Natal are under forensic investigation for mismanagement, and six more are so bad that the province has had to take over. But one town - despite being surrounded by municipalities placed under administration - has emerged as a national model of cost-cutting success.
The ANC-controlled town of Newcastle not only has no debt - having borrowed nothing for three years - but its economy is booming at 10% growth and its government could survive for more than nine months if it didn’t receive a cent in rates and taxes.


Newcastle mayor Afzul Rehman is the first KwaZulu-Natal mayor to ban publicly funded meals for councillors. (Jonathan Burton, The Witness)


No free lunch
And it is the only town in KwaZulu-Natal where councillors and staff have elected to ban free lunches for themselves.
Following new budget guidelines last month that exposed over R1bn in wasteful entertainment perks for local governments nationally, it emerged that councils across KwaZulu-Natal enjoy catered meals of up to R20 000 per meeting at ratepayer expense.
Meanwhile, in a reply to opposition questions, KwaZulu-Natal local government MEC, Nomusa Dube, last week revealed that 11 municipalities have already been investigated for corruption or gross mismanagement - with the findings not made - while nine more were under active investigation.
Treasury found that millions more were spent by councils on everything from four-star hotel stays to photocopied binders of massive meeting agendas, and courier fees to send them to councillors.
But when The Witness visited a council meeting in Newcastle last week, councillors were found with their own lunch boxes or take-away meals in plastic bags. There was not a single photocopied page in sight.
Instead, all 61 councillors simply referred to agendas on their laptops or iPads.
Paperless
Mayor Afzul Rehman told The Witness that Newcastle was “the first paperless government - at any level - in South Africa; and one of only a few in the world. We saved R8m this year just by getting rid of paper agendas”.
He said that - in a cost typical for other towns around KwaZulu-Natal - Newcastle ratepayers forked out R490 000 last year for catered meals and entertainment for their councillors. However, he said the cost to ratepayers since 1 June this year was “zero”, following a decision in March to ban publicly-funded catering.
Instead, the 61 councillors and 30 management committee officials opted to chip in R100 from their salaries for each catered meeting scheduled, and to bring their own lunch boxes to additional meetings.
Rehman, 39, said the rest of the municipality had since followed suit: “It’s the easiest thing to cut, and we as politicians have to set the tone. We said to our Executive Committee members: ‘If you are full time, then how you eat has nothing to do with the municipality.”
Awards
Meanwhile, Newcastle has scooped a string of awards in recent months, including prizes for KwaZulu-Natal’s best performing mayor; its greenest town; and the best shopping mall in South Africa, following a R500m investment in its new major retail centre.
The cuts to the entertainment budget were so sweeping that Rehman admitted he had only realised last week that his own reforms meant he had to pay for his tea and coffee at work as well.
Anton Bredell, the DA’s shadow minister for local government, said DA-controlled councils in the Western Cape “have spent virtually nothing on catering since 2009”.
However, when challenged to show a town that could rival Newcastle’s zero budget, Bredell offered Overstrand, which has limited itself to “sandwiches and scones” - but still spent the small sum of R3 264 so far this year.
Thomas Hadebe, Newcastle caucus leader for the opposition Democratic Alliance, said some wasteful spending continued - including a sanctioned trip for councillors to the Salga Games in Kokstad next month.
But Hadebe said Newcastle out-performed other KwaZulu-Natal towns “because this mayor goes against normal ANC practice and does always listen to the initiatives of the opposition”.
Telephone bills
Rehman singled out telephone bills as the next culprit to be axed.
He said cheap technologies like Skype and VOIP could save R2m in the coming year - and last month chided his own IT staff for racking up phone bills “in this day and age”.
“This is unnecessary - especially for IT people!” said Rehman. “There’s too much technology out there for us to be using telephones.”
Vernon Mchunu, spokesperson for the provincial department of co-operative governance, said an audit was under way to identify which councils had been most effective in cutting costs.
“Newcastle may be the best, but we don’t know that yet,” said Mchunu.
He said the MEC “is on record encouraging municipalities to cut costs, including doing away with catering expenses”.
George Mari, DA spokesperson for local government in KZN, said Newcastle was “an almost jarring stand-out”, as, “otherwise, municipalities are collapsing all over KwaZulu-Natal - either under investigations; or interventions or qualified audits”.


40 million euro investment

Lanxess commissions CO2 concentration in South Africa

Lanxess has commissioned a new CO2 concentration unit at its Newcastle production site in South Africa. Lanxess has invested some 40 million euro to build the unit, which was completed in just 19 months. The company operates a highly modern plant at the site for the production of sodium dichromate, which is mainly further processed into chrome tanning materials for the global leather industry. The plant is the only one of its kind in South Africa. The production technology requires a continuous supply of highly concentrated CO2, which the new unit will provide.
"This investment in South Africa is another element of our BRICS strategy," says Rainier van Roessel, member of the Board of Management at Lanxess. "The new unit allows the best possible utilisation of capacity at our plant and lays the foundation for future production expansion." With its own CO2 concentration unit, the company is no longer dependent on the delivery capacity of external suppliers, who have provided the CO2 up to now.
The new concentration unit will capture exhaust air from the site's steam production process, concentrate the CO2 level up to 99 % and feed it into the sodium dichromate production process.

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