In a new blow which chips away at Mandela Bayâ€˜s 2010 World Cup soccer dreams, the municipality has been instructed to cut the budget for its special transport plans by a staggering R600- million, which is 42 per cent of the total allocated by central government.
But mayor Nondumiso Maphazi has promised to storm the corridors of power and demand that the R1,2-billion budget be allocated in full at a time when, she and her deputy say, national spending on Cup transport systems has been increased by more than 20% to R13-billion.
An angry Maphazi made the shock announcement at the weekend after a meeting of her economic development advisory panel, attended by business and tourism leaders.
Also present was provincial MEC Gugile Nkwinti, who immediately pledged his support to the metro in its fight for the full allocation.
Maphazi said the national treasury had told the metro that its allocations to meet the 2010 requirements was being reduced to R800-million and that projects involved in the cuts would be implemented after the World Cup.
The metro should adjust its plans accordingly, treasury officials said.
Yet, Maphazi and deputy mayor Bicks Ndoni said, other World Cup host cities were being allocated more money for their transport systems, with the national budget having increased from R9-billion to R13-billion.
â€œWe need the budget for the rapid transport network to ensure that the World Cup in the metro is a success.â€
The mayor said at a media conference after the economic panel meeting that she would be arranging urgent face-to- face discussions with both Transport Minister Geoff Radebe, who was in Port Elizabeth last week, and Finance Minister Trevor Manuel to insist that the full budget allocation be provided.
â€œWe have already drawn up and announced our plans. They have now entered the tender phase â€“ we cannot allow the plans to be changed at this stage,â€ said Maphazi.
Later, the mayor said in an interview that the metro region had suffered sufficient blows already surrounding the soccer stadium and the Coega industrial development zone without cuts to a budget which would affect not only the 2010 event but also more widely based transport plans.
â€œWe have already lost out on being a host city for the 2009 Confederations Cup on the basis that the stadium in North End will not be ready on time, yet we know that the deadline would have been met.
â€œReviewing the decision, I am not sure if the reason we were given for the cancellation is true, or if there may be some other unspoken reason.
â€œAlso on Coega, through no fault of our own, a major investment (the Rio Tinto-Alcan refinery) is now in doubt because the national power supplier, Eskom, cannot provide enough electricity.
â€œThe budget cut is just too much and we will not accept it,â€ Maphazi said.
Ndoni said the transport budget for the Cup nationally had been increased from R9-billion to R13-billion, with some of these funds to be allocated to the Johannesburg metro and Cape Town.
â€œBut Johannesburg has a metro income of R27-billion compared to our R7-billion, and is already investing in projects over and above those required in terms of the 2010 World Cup.
â€œLikewise, Cape Town has three times the rates income of Mandela Bay,â€ said Ndoni.
â€œWe just cannot afford to lose our national allocation, not just because of their importance to the World Cup, but also for improving and modernising our transport system to benefit the community and encourage economic development.â€
Nkwinti said the budget cut was a â€œtough blowâ€ for the metro and its World Cup plans, and that the province would back representations being made to national government.
The Cup transport plan includes widespread road improvements in various parts of the metro, special bus lanes being provided to ensure easy access to the stadium in North End, and new buses being provided.
PUBLICATION: The Herald Online
AUTHOR: Bob Kernohan
DATED: 23rd October 2008