Johannesburg – Joburg developers and investors who plough millions of rand into the city’s economy have been treated with disdain by the City of Joburg for many years and that is now contributing to the city’s slow growth.
This is the view of the new member of the mayoral committee responsible for development planning, Funzela Ngobeni.
And the fact that the Department of Development Planning is running at only 54 percent capacity has also not helped investors or the staff, whose morale is at an all-time low.
Compounding matters is the fact that the computer systems crash at least three times a week.Speaking to The Star, Ngobeni said he was “mind-boggled” at some of the stories he heard directly from builders, investors and developers about the treatment they received from officials when trying to get plans or township applications passed, which often take months, and sometimes years.
“These officials have failed to recognise what a valuable contribution these people are making to the economy of the city. This is one of the first problems I will be addressing,” he said.
“I have also engaged with staff whose morale is very low. One of the biggest problems in the department is the inefficiency of the systems which is leading to the delay of applications. It also badly affects staff morale and influences their attitude to clients.
“We need to change these attitudes to offer a professional civil service. We plan on upgrading the IT system to address this. This also talks to having the right skills in the right place. The staff is valued by all, but we need to lift their morale,” he said.
Ngobeni said he had held three meetings with builders, developers and communities and would continue to do so.
“We need to form partnerships with those wanting to invest in our city if we are to reach our goal of growing the Joburg’s economy by 5 percent. This will not only have the benefit of growing the city, but will help to creating jobs which is vital, as unemployment is skyrocketing.”
Ngobeni said he had visited the Metrolink building which dealt with building and town planning applications to assess the problems, and had visited the storeroom where the plans were stored.
“This is in the basement and is a disaster with many plans missing or misplaced. I intend to digitalise all the plans going forward,” he said.
The department had experienced problems filling posts, but Ngobeni said he would look for additional funding in the budget-review process.
Engaging with communities was vital not only to clear blockages in the systems, but also to address disagreements and hear all sides of the stories, he said. The Johannesburg Development Agency was doing “wonderful work” across the city and it needed more support from the city, which he would be offering.
Ngobeni is passionate about the area in which he lives – Cosmo City. “It was started as a great concept of mixed housing, but fast deteriorated because of overcrowding, crime, illegal taverns and crumbling RDP houses. All this should have been stopped by the previous council before it reached this point.
“We need to start engaging the community, legalise title deeds and push for a police station and public cleaning which do not exist here,” he said.
Ngobeni’s 100-day plan includes:
*the fast-tracking of the Linbro Park master plans;
the development of the Kaserne transport-orientated hub in the CBD;
the fast-tracking of the development of the Hillbrow Tower precinct;
more by-law enforcement especially around illegal buildings;
re-establishing the municipal courts which have collapsed;
*fast-tracking building approval times;
and verification and confirmation of street numbers and names.
Who is Funzela Ngobeni?
From timeshare salesman to member of the mayoral committee, Funzela Ngobeni has been a DA proportional representative councillor for the past two years.
He has been doing work in and around the community of Zandspruit and Cosmo City, where he lives with his wife and two children.
He was a political activist most of his youth and decided to join Cope in 2008.
“It was then I realised that politics in this country was not going well under the ANC. I was looking for a different political home. We were being fed incorrect information and propaganda about the DA, so I started investigating that party”s policies.
“I saw its leaders were doing good work in other areas and parts of the country.”
He said that initially his family had been shocked by his decision to join the DA.
“My father is a strong ANC supporter. However, after telling them why I had changed parties, they understood.”
Ngobeni grew up in Bloemfontein and came to Joburg in 1997 to study tourism management.
He started working as an agent selling timeshare.
He later joined Cathay Pacific Airways and Air Botswana working his way up the ranks.
He then studied housing development at the Wits School of Governance.
“I miss all the international travelling, but I’m hoping to make my mark in this city, which generations will be able to look back on with pride,” he said.