Part 1 here.
With two-thirds of the industrial area closed and so many shops in town wallpapered as To Rent, Knysna is obviously economically troubled. The ANC administration never engaged the Knysna Chamber of Business (KCB) and Knysna Tourism appropriately so part blame must fall on them for the mess we’ve arrived at. Nevertheless, no amount of planning and friendly governing could have compensated for the tsunami of this Recession. If you live here, you will understand why i always use a capital R for “Recession”. Another saying i will repeat again and again is that we have to adjust to our new reality. Knysna was a bubblegum bubble which got popped.
The Knysna Chamber of Business is not as strong as it could/should be. Like the Ratepayer’s Association, i doubt that they have many paid up members. I get that to a degree i.e. the Recession is a bitch. Additionally, it’s hard to deal with many people in town who have become headless, selfish chickens. If you go on the KCB’s website, only 6 businesses are listed. For reasons i won’t mention here, i have some personal mistrust issues with the KCB. I have to, however, set those aside as 2 of their committee members are amongst the very few who are trying to make Knysna a better, stronger town – respect. They face an enormous challenge!
Our economy is based mostly on tourism and holiday homes. The former is straight forward – no tourists = no business for the too many restaurants, B&Bs, masseurs etc. Adjusting to reality means that many of those have to fail and go – cruel but true. Holiday homes relate in that they are less likely to be bought if no one sees them. The problem intensifies in that the actual building of the holiday homes was an industry unto itself which required builders, carpenters, plumbers, interior designers, gardeners etc. Apparently, the building of new holiday homes has been stopped by the Knysna Municipality. I haven’t confirmed because Lauren Waring, the Acting Municipal Manager, refuses to communicate with me (DA, ANC – too much the same thing). But, if true, it was the right thing to do because we’ve got far too many standing empty and, obviously, there’s now less of that bubble money in the world. The downside is that many workers and construction companies are respectively having no work and going out of business.
They would have to be to attract new business that exports rather than services. They have to embrace black and coloured business owners too. The KCB can only become effective if it represents all of Knysna. They need to work with SEDA, Red Door and KEDA, our too many economic development agencies. They need to work with, and get support from, the Knysna Municipality. I battled to get a meeting with the “powers that be” but even i beat the Knysna Business Chamber to the door. That says a lot about the DA’s “prerogatives” but recently there has been a development in that the Knysna Municipality will now pay the rent for offices for the Knysna Chamber of Business. It is a positive step forward (for the landlord too) but only a drop compared to the ocean being faced. At least dialogue has begun. We can only hope that it leads to more…
Now, if only Deputy Mayor Michelle Wasserman would actually explain what she means by “engage pro-actively with the Knysna Business Chamber during this 100-Day Action Plan of hers.
PS: Michelle – it’s the Knysna Chamber of Business (KCB), not the Knysna Business Chamber (KBC).
Part 3 here.