City takes a bold stand

2014-07-01 00:00

MSUNDUZI Municipality ditched its sackcloth-and-ashes image yesterday as Mayor Chris Ndlela promised citizens the city was “shedding its small town mentality”.

At a bold, first-ever State of the City Address, guests walked down a red carpet in the Royal Showgrounds into a specially decorated Olympia Hall replete with flowers, drapes and covered chairs.

Ndlela made no apology for the pomp. He said the municipality, which had once stared bankruptcy in the face, was back on its feet, financially stable and had savings in the bank.

He said the capital of KwaZulu-Natal needed to make this known “to show that it was shedding its small town mentality and was ready to work on its aspirations to become a world-class or a first-world city”.

Among the highlights in his speech, he spoke of:

• A fraud and corruption hotline being launched;

• Massive electrification projects;

• R250 million spending on infrastructure maintenance, and;

• A drive to clean up the city.

But he also listed traffic gridlocks, illegal electricity connections, cable theft and non-payment for services as among Msunduzi’s continuing challenges.

Ndlela said a key priority was never to return to the “murky waters”, of 2008 when the municipality went under administration.

“We have to ensure that there are systems in place to counter irregularities,” he said, announcing that the municipality had engaged a reputable, and independent company to run a fraud and corruption whistleblowing hotline.

Ndlela said the hotline will be launched shortly with contact numbers and would reveal statistics on cases investigated in the last three years, including criminal cases with the South African police.

He highlighted electrification projects in the city, where several informal settlements are set to have electricity by the end of this year, with others like Peace Valley to be completed the following year.

The municipality was also in negotiations with Eskom to provide electricity to the vast Vulindlela area.

Similarly the Vulindlela Water Scheme, which was negotiating with Umgeni Water to improve the maintenance of the scheme, has been transferred to the municipality.

The mayor noted that this was the first budget where the municipality had set aside a quarter of a billion rand for repairs and maintenance.

He noted that a city that did not maintain its infrastructure would have a hard time attracting investors.

He said work was also being done to attract investors to the city.

“Watch this space,” Ndlela said as he announced that the R1,6 billion Camps Drift Waterfront development was back on track as well as the Midlands Mall ­expansion.

He said Pietermaritzburg needed to be clean and tidy to become a world-class city.

He called on residents to see the city as their own and play their part in keeping it clean.

Ndlela said Mandela Day this year would be used to launch a drive to clean the city.

He said illegal electricity connections and copper theft were posing huge problems for the municipality. Ndlela said if the municipality was going to deliver services to communities across the city efficiently, they needed to address illegal connections, non-payment for services, meter tampering and the shortage of skilled staff in the municipality.

After his speech, the mayor told The Witness there would always be cynics who believed nothing good happened in Msunduzi.

“There is a jaundiced approach that does not do justice to the full spectrum that is Msunduzi Municipality, but only focuses on the CBD and the urban areas.”

He said if people looked at the entire municipal area they would appreciate how difficult is was to prepare a budget that dealt with the needs and expectations of the entire population.

He believed it could be done, he said.

Just as Pietermaritzburg came together to win back its capital status, he believed the city could come together to work towards a shared vision to become a world-class city.

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