Cape Town - The City of Cape Town has made its laundry list of demands clear of what it hopes to hear in President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation address (Sona).
Cape Town mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis and Mayco member for economic growth James Vos have shared the issues that they are hoping the president includes in his speech on Thursday.
Hill-Lewis is calling on Ramaphosa to address the crisis of illegal firearms which is fuelling gang and drug activity in the metro. He also wants clear deadlines for the devolving of passenger rail operations in order for the metro to run.
“I call on President Ramaphosa to announce decisive measures to deal with the crisis of illegal firearms fuelling gang, gun and drug crime in Cape Town, and around the country.
“We have seen thousands of guns flow from the police to gangsters via the back door over the years, with just one example being the guns recently stolen from Mitchells Plain police station.
“These are the same guns used to terrorise communities and run the drug trade, killing innocent children caught in gang crossfire.
“How many more families must mourn the loss of loved ones before decisive action is taken to disrupt the gun and drug trade?
“The City calls for strong action to deal with the corrupt elements in (the) SAPS who are conspiring with gangs, and for the urgent devolution of more policing powers to municipal law enforcement to help SAPS fight crime.”
Hill-Lewis said City policing operations were taking guns off the streets at an increasing rate, with 447 illegal firearm confiscations in the past two financial years, and 35% more firearm-related arrests in 22/23 compared to the previous year.
“Many of the guns our officers take off the streets end up back in the hands of gangsters through corrupt back channels in (the) SAPS. The criminal justice system is also failing to put criminals behind bars, with single-digit conviction rates for gang crime.
“Our well-trained municipal law enforcement officers are ready to be an even stronger ally to (the) SAPS. With more policing powers, particularly for criminal investigations, we can build prosecution-ready case dockets on gang, gun and drug crime.”
Hill-Lewis said Ramaphosa had promised the national Rail Devolution Strategy would be out before the end of 2023 but nothing more had been said after the deadline was missed.
“The City’s ongoing rail feasibility study has found that lower income families in our city would save R932 million a year with working, efficient trains. Functional rail will also sustain over 51 000 jobs and add R11 billion to the local economy each year.
“Enough with the delays and false promises on devolution, Mr President. We await your clear deadline for the national Rail Devolution Strategy and for the handing over of passenger rail in Cape Town,” he said.
Vos has renewed calls for the country’s head to honour unfulfilled commitments relating to the Port of Cape Town and visa system, and to consider a third matter that could be a boon to the clothing and textile industry.
“When the president opened Parliament and delivered his Sona on 10 February 2022, he said that the Department of Home Affairs was ‘streamlining and modernising the visa application process to make it easier to travel to South Africa for tourism, business and work’.
“Two years later, it is clear that the very opposite is true, with the department sitting on a mountain of almost 75 000 in unprocessed temporary residency visas, with an additional backlog of 44 000 in permanent residency permits.
“To add insult to injury, the department issued a surprise directive, to international visitors who haven’t received a visa renewal by 23 February 2024 to leave South Africa by the end of the month, or risk being banned.”
Vos said that if the visitors who tended to remain in the country for several months were forced to leave, it would be a blow to tourism and hospitality industries in the province.
Of further concern for Vos was the fact that the visa backlog was a strain on industries.
“For example, our Special Purpose Vehicle (SPV) partner in the call centre industry, CapeBPO, has noted that the current visa system is hindering critical knowledge transfer for numerous local jobs.
“Similarly, UVU Africa, the City's tech industry SPV, has emphasised the challenges in acquiring visas for delegates, prompting the relocation of events from Cape Town to other parts of Africa. My pursuit is fuelled by the determination to protect jobs and foster economic growth,” Vos said.
“In addition, would-be international travellers have found that the e-Visa system is also largely ineffective.
“Then, of course, we must not forget the remote worker visa that the president said in last year’s Sona was being introduced but has not yet been.”
Vos also called for urgent reform at Transnet’s Port of Cape Town.
Research from the South African Association of Freight Forwarders indicated that South Africa’s economy was losing R98 million a day due to challenges at the country’s ports.
“For example, clothing retailers and manufacturers are unable to bring in products and raw materials to meet customer needs. Retailers have gone so far as to send containers to Walvis Bay, Namibia, and transport goods via truck to ensure they have the necessary inputs to do business.
“In recent months, fruit exporters have been especially hard hit with Hortgro, the fruit industry representative body, reporting that some fruit exports through the port were down by as much as 62% in November and December 2023 compared with the same time in 2022.
“South African consumers are further hurt because the prices of various foodstuffs, such as cooking oil and canned goods, electronics like smartphones and laptops, as well as medications, are negatively impacted by the delays in the port.
“An improved port would lead to the creation of job opportunities, increasing export volumes and improving our standing in the global market.”
Vos said another matter was that of further duty reductions for products used in clothing manufacturing.
According to research from the City’s Special Purpose Vehicle, the Cape Clothing and Textile Cluster, the rebate had improved the cost competitiveness of 22 million locally made products by an average of R9.50 a garment.
“If such duty reduction measures were to be responsibly expanded into yarn and knitted fabric, more locally made products could achieve globally competitive prices and we could turbocharge interest in sourcing from South African manufacturers.
“The more competitive it is to manufacture locally, the greater the demand and job opportunities could be,” Vos said.
“For the nation to thrive, President Ramaphosa must address these pressing issues, unlocking the true potential of South Africa and providing tangible relief for millions grappling with unemployment and rising living costs.”