That was the message conveyed by eThekwini Municipality’s newly appointed chief operating officer, Musa Mbhele, to property professionals at a business event in uMhlanga last week.
Mbhele addressed professionals at the SA Property Owners Association (Sapoa) breakfast presentation and networking event, where he focused on the municipality’s “Durban Open for Business” branding and what it meant for concerns raised by the local property sector.
Mbhele said the city had noted and was addressing several concerns that the sector had raised regrading property and new developments in the city.
“This is a crucial sector for our economy, it’s crucial in creating jobs and particularly in giving us the rates that we need to sustain our city, so it’s one of those sectors we take very seriously,” Mbhele said.
He said concerns had included complaints about the time taken to have building plans approved for new developments; the efficiency of the one-stop shop for the processing of new development applications; rapid urbanisation and crime and grime in the CBD and surrounding areas; issues around property uses and the illegal invasion of strategic parcels of land; work stoppages on developments by vigilante groups; the maintenance of infrastructure and slow turnaround time for repairing faults like electricity outages that leads to a loss in revenue for businesses.
Mbhele said the city was addressing the concerns and he was committed to making an impact on the ground.
“The one-stop shop has been functional, but not optimal. We need to make sure that when you walk through the one-stop shop you come through happy, so you don’t have to go to ETA (eThekwini Transport Authority) and Water and Sanitation and be frustrated by officials, but you come to the one-stop shop and are treated like a queen or a king,” Mbhele said.
He said city officials had visited Sydney, Australia, to learn from its experiences in establishing the Sydney Foreshore Authority to address crime and urban management. The authority comprised members of civil society, the private sector and the government to oversee development of the precinct.
Mbhele said the city had developed the concept of customer relationship managers where senior officials were tasked with taking care of the concerns raised by key business customers in the city.
“Because it will take a quite a while to do the organisational re-engineering, one of the first interventions we are going to do is to come up with a unit called the Rapid Response Unit (RRU) within the next four to five months. The responsibility of the RRU is to ensure that while we are waiting to change the organisational culture, at least we are able to respond to some of the concerns that customers have,” Mbhele said.
“Despite all the negative publicity Durban is still open for business, and those interventions are going to be taking shape.”