A tale of two cities – Musina is getting things right despite its difficulties

2011-04-09 15:53

Piet Moyana (93) is a living encyclopedia on Musina, the town where he has lived for 63 years.

He remembers a time when the ­township of Nancefield, where his home is situated, was just a cluster of brick houses built by the copper mine which then employed most of the town’s residents.

He also recalls when residents would be rattled by the distant roar of lions prowling along the Limpopo River, about 10km away.

During the blazing summer nights people would sleep on mattresses in the garden to escape the heat.

Moyana says back then their only ­worry was the feared municipal police, who would raid their homes at night to arrest and deport those they found ­without residence permits.

Times have changed and now the old man laments the fact that crime seems to have become a way of life.

His home has already been burgled three times over the past year. Like most ­residents, he blames it all on the many ­Zimbabwean ­migrants who have made the township their home since political ­turmoil broke out in their own ­country more than a decade ago.

Nancefield is just 10km from the ­international border with Zimbabwe.

A dearth of job ­opportunities and a scramble for ­government RDP housing have led to a hardening of locals’ ­attitudes ­towards the Zimbabweans, who are blamed for ­everything from crime to taking away jobs.

Life, however, goes on in Musina, which for the past decade has been ­receiving unqualified audits from the ­office of the Auditor-General.

Tabling her yearly report for the ­municipality during the 2008/09 ­financial year, mayor Caroline Mahasela summed up the string of audits by ­saying: “It is official, it is exhilarating, it is a record and it calls for celebration.

“This is surely no mean feat. It takes a lot of commitment, devotion and, above all, hard work and immense team effort to be clean for a decade.”

Johann Ellis, a Democratic Alliance (DA) councillor in Musina, says the unqualified audit reports do not reflect the level of service delivery in the ­district.

He says: “Sustainable services are under threat from the lack of ­maintenance over the past 10 years.

“The majority of tar roads in Musina town are beyond repair and must be ­completely ripped up and constructed afresh.
The electric articulation network is failing, with constant power surges and blackouts.”

The municipality has made some strides in certain areas, though. As part of its ­poverty alleviation strategy the ­municipality provides free basic services every month to 2 274 ­community members.

The beneficiaries are ­households that have a combined income of less than R2?400 a month.

Each beneficiary ­receives 54.2 units of electricity, six ­kilolitres of clean water and free refuse removal and sewerage.

The municipality recently ­completed an R8.7-million upgrade of the Lesley ­Manyathela Stadium, a sports venue named after the late Orlando ­Pirates footballer who was a Musina resident.

The stadium project was part of the municipality’s infrastructure development plan.

Recently the town also received a boost on the business front, with the launch of the R600-million Musina ­China Wholesale ­Centre at the Musina ­Industrial Site. The initiative is expected to create about 400 jobs.

Despite the signs of progress, Musina faces serious challenges.

While RDP houses have gone up in the ­town’s Moshongo, Matswale and Sihlala sections, roads in the township are pitted with gaping potholes.

Some residents are also concerned about ageing infrastructure, such as the old community hall and library.

Others allege there is corruption in the ­allocation of RDP houses, and some ­lament the lack of job opportunities and incorrect billing.

Widow Mukumela Ramadwa says she started receiving two separate municipal bills for the same property – one in her own name and the other in the name of her late husband, Elias.

She says: “The municipality said we need to get a lawyer to sort it out, but I am an old woman with no money. How do I get money to pay for a lawyer?”

Ellis says one of the real concerns is about the burden placed on the town’s resources by the thousands of unemployed ­Zimbabweans living in Musina – resources such as ­police, health and ­social services.

He says the Musina local municipality has spent more than R12 million over the past three years on matters related directly to the Zimbabwean crisis – “money which national government promised to refund ... a promise not fulfilled to date, and money the residents of Musina now have to do without”.

Despite the grumblings, however, ­senior citizen ­Moyana believes that ­despite the crime and the usual enforcement of ­by-laws which often sees hawkers’ goods being confiscated, things have changed for the better.

He says: “There will always be ­problems, but a lot of good things have happened here. In the past, children used to sleep under the bed, but now ­people have RDP houses.

“But we can still learn something from the past. The old government punished those who did wrong. They were firm. But the ­government we have now is much better.

“It has opened many doors for us. It is a good government,” Moyana says. “It is just that sometimes individuals create problems.”

» Khathu Netshifhefhe, the general ­secretary of the ANC’s Vhembe region, says they have submitted the names of 12 candidate councillors – seven of them new – to contest the local government elections next month.

Netshifhefhe says they are quite optimistic that the team is capable of meeting the challenges of service ­delivery in the area. 

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