Melanie Veness, CEO of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business.

At the end of every year one takes time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t, the positive and the negative. Last year was great for the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business in terms of growth and development.

But when I think back, infrastructure failure was probably the thing that most coloured our business landscape, costing private individuals and the business sector millions.

I feel desperately sorry for the leadership of our city who inherited infrastructure that their predecessors quite simply failed to maintain and have to bear the brunt of ratepayers’ frustrations.

Having said that, it is us, the citizens of Pietermaritzburg, who are bearing the consequences of the city’s past leadership’s flagrant negligence and utter dereliction of duty.

To my mind, to take a salary and not deliver is tantamount to theft.

To my knowledge, not a single official has been held accountable for the unashamed mismanagement of Msunduzi Municipality.

Although several officials “left”, none of them was held accountable.

Most (to my utter amazement) have been rewarded with employment in other government institutions.

This year has not begun well, with the municipality having been found seriously wanting, unable to effectively deal with the outages caused by a storm on January 5.

Granted, the storm brought down plenty of trees that took out a number of power lines, but to have an inept call centre (making communication impossible) and to still have areas without power a week after the storm is inexcusable.

Not only is this constant infrastructure failure intolerable, it costs residents and businesses millions and creates disillusionment and disinvestment at a time when we desperately need to encourage greater investment.

I have always maintained that I want to be part of a solution, rather than sit on the sideline throwing stones. I still do, but enough is enough.

It’s time for our national and provincial leadership to take responsibility for their past “deployees” and to fix the mess that they created. Why should we live with it? Why leave our new leadership floundering?

It is also time to start managing government departments properly, making officials accountable.

At times I am left gob-smacked by the attitude of officials entrusted with the management of our resources and their brazen disregard for the big picture.

In December, our family was invited to stay at a friend’s cottage at Leisure Bay.

On Monday, December 17, there was no water supply to a large area of the coast. We were left without water for more than 24 hours and had to ferry buckets of sea water back and forth to flush the toilets.

Bottled water at the local shops was in very short supply, so bathing was out of the question.

We couldn’t reach anybody on that day, and when we finally got hold of someone from the local municipality the next day, we were informed that December 17 was a public holiday and that the municipality didn’t open on public holidays.

Now this is an area that relies predominantly on tourism to drive its economy, yet municipal officials seem to think that it is perfectly reasonable to leave people without water on a public holiday in high season?

Come on leadership – let’s be accountable this year.

* Melanie Veness is the CEO of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business.