BNC#6: Overstrand Mayor Annelie Rabie’s official welcome, upbeat message on overcoming challenges

The 500 delegates to the BizNews Conference in Hermanus were officially welcomed by Dr Annelie Rabie, Executive Mayor of Overstrand, whose message showcased the municipality’s remarkable achievements and ongoing challenges. Despite facing rising Eskom costs, wage system constraints, and environmental disasters, Overstrand has maintained financial stability, receiving accolades for service delivery and sustainability efforts. Mayor Rabie emphasised the importance of prudent financial management, effective governance, and addressing broader issues like climate change and infrastructure funding. She highlighted Overstrand as a resilient and attractive investment destination, offering insights into navigating local government challenges while promoting sustainable development and economic growth.

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An edited transcript of Overstrand Executive Mayor Annelie Rabie’s opening address at BNC#6 in Hermanus ___STEADY_PAYWALL___

Phew, I’ve never seen so many beautiful people. Master of ceremonies, given that the delegate list reads like the who’s who of the political, economic, and investment landscape of South Africa, I suggest it’s best to say all protocols observed because I may just leave someone out. Do I ever wish to recognize one person, and that is Clinton Lerm at the back. He is a member of the Mayoral Committee responsible for investment and infrastructure. And I have a special word of thanks to him for assisting us in getting this up and running and being such a support to the BizNews team.

In welcoming you to this, the 6th BizNews Conference, I wish you the very best of conversations, networking, renewal of friendships, and deliberations on the challenges that currently face our country. I also wish to thank Alec, Jeanette, and the best BizNews team for choosing our madness. We are the center of the universe as the venue for this conference that is being held at a very opportune time. While you are very welcome at this conference, I would also like to encourage you to visit other parts of Overstrand. As you know, we go from Rooi-Els on the one hand to a very tiny town called Buffeljagsbaai, 160 kilometres on the other side. So it’s quite a bit of a distance and lots to do in between. Being a politician, Alec, I have to take a sceptical peer and tell you something about Overstrand because some of you may not know.

Since our term of office in November 2021, Overstrand has been the recipient of various awards. We are currently the holder of the Gold Award for municipalities for service delivery from the Western Cape Government. We were the winners of the Green Economy Change Champion Award, the winner of the Harbour City Award, and the Cape Epic Cycle Tour voted Hermanus as the best stage. We walked away with first place in waste management in 2022. One that we’re particularly proud of is the fact that this municipality took the first position in the country last year on the Green Drop, the Blue Drop, and the No Drop. I was wondering where the brown is. The Green Drop, the No Drop, and the Blue Drop are the best-performing municipalities in South Africa in relation to our water management services. And then, of course, you don’t come to Hermanus and you don’t eat and drink. Therefore, we are also a UNESCO gastronomy capital, of which we are also very proud.

All of you who are around this floor are very aware of the challenges of local government. In the wake of an absolutely failing state, the immense material cost of ESKOM to us as municipalities, a wage system for public servants and municipal staff that is decided at a bargaining council which leaves very little room for municipalities even to try and mitigate that and try to object to that, it is an ongoing battle and a challenge to steer the ship in calm waters. And a number of environmental disasters during 2023 in Overstrand, we also received our 11th consecutive clean audit. I always maintain, master of ceremonies, that a clean audit does not necessarily translate into good service delivery. Obviously, we all have room for improvement, but the fact that we are the current winners of the Gold Award for Service Delivery does say something about the translation between clean audit and service delivery.

Even with the lower tariff increases that this municipality did over the last few years since the COVID-19 pandemic, the municipality remains financially viable. We have not fully recovered from COVID-19, especially in the hospitality industry. However, despite all of those challenges, currently have full coverage for operational expenses in Overstrand for 5.7 months. Without one penny coming into this municipality, we will carry this municipality for 5.7 months. I hope to reach six months by the end of this year. The treasury norm for municipalities is to have cash on hand and operational expenditure of 2 months. And we are well over that. We are very conservative and very prudent in many of the things we do. There is effective oversight of operational and capital expenditures. We have an external JPEG, which is fully functional and certainly keeps us very much on our toes. They definitely do not play.

Debt collection at this time is at 98%. We do face the challenges of rising consumer debt year on year. And one of the challenges we will be facing in this financial year is to have to make more available unfortunately and more provision for the writing of irrecoverable debt. And it is across the Overstrand, across sectors, across residential areas. Despite this, I want to reiterate, because many of you come from local government, that electricity and staff-related costs are our biggest drivers. And both of them are very much out of our hands. And if there are two things that are going to decrease the viability of any municipality, it is ESCOM and staff-related costs.

At this point, as I’m standing here, our cash on hand and investments were an audited 751 million Rand, and I’m very proud of that as well. Chair, in conclusion, we are a financially sustainable local authority with an excellent investment portfolio. While we cannot suggest that the challenges of the decaying local government platform will not knock on our doors, we were and are able to mitigate the effect of climate change, and large-scale semi-gration, primarily due to the disastrous consequences in the Eastern Cape. And, Master of Ceremonies, I am a proponent of developing the Eastern Cape so that people have schools, jobs, have hospitals, so that the migration into the Western Cape, KZN, can just at some level be stemmed. And then, of course, the reduction in the support for infrastructure development from the National FISCUS.

Let me give you an example. This municipality in 2023 paid an enormous 67 million rand for fire and flood damage only. We only received 12 million rand from the National Disaster Management Center. The rest we had to cushion, and that takes something from your budget. But despite the challenges, this is still a great place to be. and to be hosting this prestigious event certainly makes us very happy. Happy conferencing. Thank you.

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