OPINION

Oudtshoorn is starting to work again – Mmusi Maimane

DA leader says much progress was made after residents put their trust in the party

Under its new DA government, Oudtshoorn is starting to work again

14 June 2017

In August last year, the people of Oudtshoorn chose to put their trust in the DA, giving us a majority in Council, and putting DA councillors in 12 of Oudtshoorn’s 13 wards. We were immensely grateful for this opportunity to prove our worth and our councillors immediately rolled up their sleeves and got down to the business of improving lives.

I am very pleased with the progress that the DA-run council has made in Oudtshoorn since then. When we came into government – just 10 months ago - we faced an uphill task to turn this municipality around. It was in a parlous state of neglect and decay. It was debt-ridden and virtually bankrupt.

Our promise to the people of Oudtshoorn was to implement a clean, honest and capable government that would revitalise the town’s incredible potential as a world class tourist destination. Sustainable job creation and economic development were at the heart of our offer.

At the DA, we believe in picking the low-hanging fruit first. That means prioritising those projects that will make the greatest possible difference in the shortest possible time to as many people as possible. And here in Oudtshoorn, that meant fixing your biggest tourist attraction, the magnificent Cango Caves. The Cango Caves faced imminent closure due to alleged financial mismanagement under the previous administration.

The Caves are now functioning well and making a profit again, thanks to improved marketing and excellent management. Last month, in May 2017, we had 2500 more visitors to the caves than in May 2016. The tourism sector is one of our biggest job creators, and therefore ensuring growth in this sector is a top priority of the DA government. We strive to build an inclusive economy that creates work for all.

Over the last 10 months in government, we have also made great progress in other areas, and I am happy to report on a number of achievements.

In support of sustainable economic development, we have approved a mall and a housing development, as well as the development of a mini shopping complex in Springbok Road in Bridgton, a project that should start as early as January 2018. Further development projects are in the pipeline, including a variety of housing opportunities aimed and providing quality housing for poor residents. And negotiations are taking place to establish a satellite campus of Chrysalis Academy in collaboration with Eden District Municipality, in support of the development of young people in Oudtshoorn. All of these undertakings will be greatly enhanced by the infrastructure upgrade of the Oudtshoorn - De Rust section of Route 62, which has also been approved by council.

Financially, Oudtshoorn is in a much stronger position today than it was when the DA first took over 10 months ago. The Municipality’s debt has decreased from R112 million to R31 million. Very soon we will be out of the red altogether and back on a sound financial footing. In particular, our Eskom debt has decreased from R52 million to R10.3 million. Capital spending is improving and we have managed to spend our entire municipal infrastructure grant within the financial year, focusing on the development of poor communities.

We are aiming to raise an additional R20 million per annum in revenue and our efficient spending and saving measures have resulted in savings in the excess of R7 million for the 2016/17 financial year.

We will continue to run an efficient government that works to ensure that the local economy grows and that work opportunities are made available for those who are still left out of the economy. The people of Oudtshoorn have put their trust in us, and we will not let them down.

Issued by Mmusi Maimane, Leader of the Democratic Alliance, 14 June 2017