Meet Knysna’s new MM
“I am here for this town to contribute towards improving people’s lives. About party politics – we can’t politicise a disaster. I want to keep the politics out and support the rebuilding of the town.”
This was the answer from new municipal manager for Greater Knysna, Kam Chetty, when asked whether he would allow party politics to interfere with his decision making during his term in office, which started this month.
During an interview with Chetty, he was soft-spoken yet clear in everything he said. He came across as a calm, insightful man who has clearly done his research into Greater Knysna’s issues.
Chetty’s appointment came as a surprise to not only residents of Knysna, but also to the Knysna-Plett Herald, when feedback on a query was received with his name at the bottom without prior notification of his appointment.
APPLIED FOR JOB BEFORE FIRE
He explained that he had already applied for the position before the fire disaster that ravaged the Garden Route.
“When my time as administrator of the Oudtshoorn municipality came to an end I resumed my work on climate change and green infrastructure with Renewable Energy Integration Africa, but when the position in Knysna opened I applied, as I have always loved Knysna for its beauty and its economic potential.
“It was also suggested to me that my knowledge and understanding of governance, and skills with regards to economic development, would be of great help in Knysna,” said Chetty.
The deciding factor to accept the position, though, was his personal interaction with residents who shared their difficult but mostly sad stories with him of the fire disaster.
“Those interactions are what implored me to take the position, ordinary people in tears impacted by the fires. I now have an inner passion to make an impact on Knysna and those affected,” he said.
MAJOR ISSUES TO ADDRESS
Chetty outlined the major issues that he will focus on in the wake of the fires.
To address the humanitarian relief issue and improve the coordination of that process.
Mitigating the risks that arose from the fires. “This will include the possibility of having to manage another such fire, soil erosion and landslides that may occur – of which assessments are being done, and to mitigate these issues,” said Chetty.
Rebuilding Knysna, which includes “capital retention and reinvestment in Knysna”.
When asked about his plans for Knysna in general, Chetty said that the town’s immediate future cannot be “divorced” from current crisis management efforts. “Our integrated development plan (IDP) will have to be revised in order to reprioritise municipal investment after the crisis. We have to get the IDP priorities to realign with the disaster recovery plan,” he said.
The three major focus areas according to Chetty will be:
The current financial impact caused by loss of business revenue, the reduction in water consumption and loss of rates revenue.
Putting a strong team in place with innovative administrative leadership within the municipality.
Building and strengthening the relationship between the municipality, business and the community.
“The outcome of this process must build trust and promote growth and development within Knysna. I trust that I can bring a strong understanding of governance, economic development, policy implementation and fostering social inclusion to the table, which I think will help a lot,” added Chetty.
Regarding the town’s water crisis, Chetty said he is in the process of meeting with engineers who will provide him with an analysis of all scenarios and alternatives, including the threat of level 4 water restrictions.
“If we don’t have good alternatives we may be forced to move to level 4 restrictions. We are busy with a short and long-term analysis, and I feel my involvement in climate change research gives me a good insight into these issues,” he said.
With regards to allegations made by residents of corruption, fraud and the likes within the municipality, Chetty said he will not take these lightly. “We have to test the allegations. For those allegations being investigated by Parliament we will examine the evidence and act accordingly.
I want to deal with corruption, but I also want to add that we do not need destructive, unfounded or unnecessary allegations. Accountability is critical, the media is there to fulfil this important role. Their role is to hold us accountable and to keep me on my toes,” he said.
On a personal level, the media has played an important part in
Chetty’s life. His wife is a former journalist, and he used to deliver newspapers while still in school because, according to him, he came from a poor family and had to work hard to support his family while still at school.
According to Knysna mayor Eleanore
Bouw-Spies, Chetty’s appointment comes at a critical time for
“His appointment was decided before the devastating fires that hit us, but Mr Chetty’s commitment to ethical leadership values, and to operational and technical excellence through process improvements and effective monitoring, as well as his invaluable experience in the development of human capital to ensure institutional resilience, deepen entrepreneurial and social capital, and create a culture of innovation, will be invaluable to us all as #KnysnaRises,” said Bouw-Spies.
The new municipal manager of Greater Knysna, Kam Chetty.