Cape Town - The City of Cape Town and Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry locked horns yesterday over the way the municipality does business, with the chamber accusing the DA-led metro of “becoming overly centralised” and “less inclined to listen” to other sectors.
Speaking at the annual “city meets business symposium” yesterday, chamber president Janine Myburgh spoke candidly about the “growing concern from business” that decisions in the city council were being centralised.
“We must guard against this. An involved and active private sector is imperative to create a healthy economy. Now is not the time for passive-aggressive behaviour from any of the social partners. We need an open society, with an open attitude to new ideas and new ways to work together.”
Public participation needed to be more than “just a PR campaign”, she said.
“In fact, it is a lack of public participation which makes business less inclined to engage and participate, and therefore less inclined to work with government.”
Myburgh, pictured below, also pulled no punches in her criticism of the city’s recent rates and tariff increases which seemed to hit commercial and industrial properties harder than residential properties.
Furthermore, the “dead hand of the regulator” was the biggest challenge for businesses, she said.
“Most of the legislation passed in recent years has been restrictive and prescriptive. We are being told how to run our businesses by people who have little understanding or experience of business.”
She appealed for enabling legislation that would open up opportunities.
Myburgh added that business was not “ganging up” on the city. “We believe that by engaging with you more often, more robustly and more productively, we will be assisting you to build a better city.”
Mayor Patricia de Lille hit back, saying: “I can’t leave it unchallenged that you say most things in the city are centralised, because it is simply not true.”
Myburgh’s comments underlined a “clear lack of understanding of the role of local government and the legislation governing local government”.
The city was guided by policies such as the Integrated Development Plan and the Social Development Strategy.
“We do public participation on every single planning issue where required.”
In her speech to delegates that included the Black Management Forum and Western Cape Business Opportunities Forum, De Lille said: “While we may not be business people ourselves, we understand what business requires from government. We know that you need to be proactive, not believe in magic.”
De Lille named the Integrated Rapid Transit system and the broadband network as examples of projects that had successfully created economic growth in the city.
The city’s investment incentives programme in Atlantis was also showing success and
the Economic Areas Management Programme was ready to use.
But business also had to live up to its end of the bargain, she said.
Deputy mayor Ian Neilson
challenged the chamber to provide alternative solutions to the annual tariff increase.
But De Lille acknowledged that the funding for local government needed to be taken up with national government.
Myburgh said later that she had spoken to De Lille and Neilson during the break and they agreed that the chamber would work more closely with the city to draft the budget.
It would also discuss its concerns about the centralisation of decisions. - Cape Argus