DA questions CBD funding

2013-09-10 00:00

A WAR of words has erupted between the Democratic Alliance and the Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Department (Cogta) over the latter’s financing of improvements in the Pietermaritzburg CBD.

The DA yesterday called for answers from Cogta MEC Nomusa Dube after The Witness reported that her department was footing the bill for the multi-million-rand upgrade of Chief Albert Luthuli Street near the city hall.

The upgrade includes the reconstruction of the road pavement layers, upgrading of sidewalks, new kerbs, landscaping and street furniture.

DA MP George Mari said delays in the project, the cost of which is close to R20 million, have led to a budget deficit of some R2,6 million.

Mari said essentially what the department had done was spend in excess of R20 million beautifying a 200-metre stretch of road near the city hall.

“This raises serious questions about the development criteria of the department and its priorities. It also raises the question of why a Cogta grant is being used rather than municipal funding,” he said.

Mari said local government in KwaZulu-Natal continues to lurch from one crisis to the next, while the province’s smaller towns bear evidence of urban decay at its worst.

“There can be no doubt that the grant money being spent on brick paving and other nice-to-haves outside the city hall should have been spent elsewhere,” he said.

Mari said they would ask the MEC on what basis the “purely cosmetic” project was taken on by the department when there were more urgent issues of urban renewal requiring attention in the province.

Cogta spokesperson Lennox Mabaso hit back, saying that Mari and the DA had deliberately omitted mentioning the existence of the Pietermaritzburg Urban Renewal Programme (PURP).

Mabaso said the programme was estimated to cost over R1 billion in the medium- to long-term and would be financed by various government departments.

It was intended to address issues such as unregulated and informal street hawking, uneven pavements, potholes, illegal advertising and unregulated parking, and other issues including road infrastructure and the unreliable electricity supply.

Mabaso said Mari had also omitted to mention the new tourism hub complex constructed in the CBD and financed by Cogta to the tune of about R18,4 million, which was undertaken as part of the urban renewal programme.

He said the aim was to make Pietermaritzburg a world-class capital city.

“The truth of the matter is that the DA statement is shockingly ill-informed.

“Mari must familiarise himself with these programmes before making a mockery of himself,” said Mabaso.

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