Cape Town - In the wake of the announcement that DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko was packing her bags for Harvard, it has emerged that another DA MP, Tim Harris, is leaving to promote investment for the City of Cape Town.
“Right now I want to help put Cape Town on the map as an investment destination,” Harris told the Cape Argus on Wednesday. “I want to help convince investors and entrepreneurs across South Africa and the world that our city is a great place for them to start and grow businesses too.”
Harris has most lately been the DA’s spokesman on finance. His appointment is a strategic move that will allow the DA-led metro and provincial government to present a united front to various investment agencies and the private sector to create jobs and economic opportunities.
But Cosatu has denounced the move by the DA as “just another instance of jobs for pals”.
Cosatu’s Tony Ehrenreich also argued that Harris would be doing the work of Wesgro, which as the dedicated agency for investment and economic growth was paid R10 million by the city and the province.
“This is clearly duplication and maladministration, bordering on corruption that Cosatu will refer to the public protector for investigation.”
But mayor Patricia de Lille, who announced Harris’s appointment as the city’s head of investment promotion on Wednesday, said he would implement many of the policies he developed as the DA’s spokesman on finance in local government to ensure the city realised its economic potential.
As a political appointment of the mayor he will be based in her office.
Harris managed the communications for De Lille’s mayoral campaign in 2011.
Harris’s move to local government has attracted criticism on social media platforms as a sideways move rather than a career progression.
But Harris said: “As I see it, the next political objective of the DA should be to win control of more metros in the 2016 election. The party will have to campaign on a jobs and investment record in Cape Town in that election, so I see a contribution to making progress possible in the City of Cape Town as an important one.”
The best way to create “thousands of jobs” was to actively promote Cape Town as a city where investors and entrepreneurs could flourish.
Harris said his experience in Parliament and “good relationships across party lines” would enable him to work well with the national government. He would also help leverage existing programmes across the city and province.
Shortly before the May 7 elections, Harris took part in a heated debate at Wits University against Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel about job creation. Patel said then that the Western Cape’s job strategy favoured white job seekers.
But Harris said on Wednesday that the latest StatsSA numbers showed the province had created the most jobs in the country across racial lines.
“This means that the province still has by far the lowest unemployment in the country despite the fact that more than 220 000 people have moved to the province in search of economic opportunities.”
Harris’s appointment has been given the thumbs-up by other sectors, including Wesgro and the Cape Chamber of Commerce.
Nils Flaatten, chief executive officer of Wesgro, said Harris’s role would add to Wesgro’s investment, recruitment and facilitation efforts, and would give international and domestic investors a point of entry to the city.
“Wesgro met Mr Harris this morning and offered him a ‘hot desk’ at the agency where he can conduct meetings with investors as well as engage with Wesgro staff. His appointment will add to the advocacy efforts of the agency regarding red tape and policy blockages.”
Wesgro would also benefit from Harris’s experience on fiscal and monetary policies as well as macro-economic issues that determined the country’s investment profile.
The Cape Chamber of Commerce and Industry also welcomed the news.
President Janine Myburgh said: “Mr Harris certainly has the right credentials for the position. The promotion of this city and region is vital if we want to see a growth economy. Cape Town has huge potential to position itself as an investment destination.
“We have seen an uptick in international business delegations as well as international companies interested in our dispute settlement centre.”
The Cape Town Partnership was also enthusiastic.
Chief operations officer Bulelwa Makalima Ngewana said: “His appointment comes at a strategic time for Cape Town’s investment culture. As various nodes (like the CBD, Woodstock, Bellville, the Voortrekker Road corridor and others) around the metro region continue to grow in terms of opportunity and social connections, a strategic view on investment and growth will help to be the connecting force that makes our metro region’s economy stronger, more business-friendly, and more inclusive.”
Partnership and collaboration would ensure that growth took place across all areas, not just in a few.
Ngewana said it was hoped Harris would further extend the already-expanding efforts by local and provincial government to reduce red tape and support “holistic business growth”.
It was hoped that Harris’s new post would “lead to a balance of approaches to attract investment that creates jobs for highly skilled people with investment that can catalyse jobs for the unemployed youth of our city”.
Lindsey Jones, chief operating officer of the Greater Tygerberg Partnership, said Harris was capable and experienced. She hoped his appointment would see a greater focus on the development of the Voortrekker Road corridor.
Finance MEC Alan Winde said: “It’s a great move in growing our region’s economy and creating jobs. Harris will be a good catalyst to achieve those growth and job creation goals. He will be instrumental in linking investors and business to the city. He will also play a key role in networking between spheres of government and intergovernmental agencies.”