How to heal Howick

2011-07-19 00:00

THE first female mayor of uMngeni Municipality has big plans for the small town of Howick.

Bubbly Mbali Myeni, who also happens to be the youngest mayor in the municipality’s history, said that topping her plan-of-action list is addressing the valuation roll, which has been the source of outcries from property owners in the town. Myeni says she has met with the uMngeni Ratepayers’ Forum twice and attended one of its meetings. “I felt their concerns about our valuation processes,” she says. “Their mood makes it a very urgent matter.”

Myeni, who until she was inaugurated as the new mayor on June 1 was the head of corporate services in the municipality, also serves as the ANC Youth League’s representative on the Provincial Executive Committee (PEC).

Included in her immediate plans is steering the municipality in the direction of achieving a healthy financial status. She said she will do this by contributing to the current strategies in place for revenue enhancement so as to ensure an effective, efficient, financially viable municipality.

Building the town’s economy is also on the new mayor’s to-do list.

“I have plans of working with the businesses in the area,” she says. “I believe that they do contribute in the creation of jobs. They could also assist in inviting investors from abroad, therefore it is critical to bring them on board.

“The aim is to become an economically vibrant municipality in the midlands through exploring and utilising our existing resources.”

Upgrading of the Nelson Mandela capture site and the Mpophomeni Tourism Gateway complex are some of the special projects that she plans to support as they have the potential to boost the town’s economy.

Service delivery is very much an imperative. Myeni’s service-delivery priorities include installation of bulk electricity, and water and sanitation services to communities.

“This is where co-operative governance is important. My aim is to build healthy relations with Eskom for provision of electricity in its licensed areas and ensure maintenance thereof, and with the uMgungundlovu District Municipality as the water services authority.

“I will encourage councillors and management to prioritise delivery of sustainable services to the people, particularly the poor and the marginalised … I am in full support of the notion that we need to work twice as hard in our good governance initiatives.”

As a PEC youth member, Myeni plans to support and promote the services of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) local offices, as challenges faced by young people are close to her heart.

“I will build relations with tertiary institutions and engage with them on the intake of youth to further their studies, specifically for the impoverished youth. My office will also prioritise human development through sports programmes. The municipality does have relations with Department of Sports and Recreation. My role will be to enhance all relations and ensure youth participation in sports. This will eventually move them away from substance abuse and engaging in illegal activities.”

Myeni said it is important that she has knowledge and understanding of issues concerning women, and she would encourage women to get involved and make their voices heard.

“We have gone past the stage where men would say a woman’s place is in the kitchen.

“I believe that women ought to swell the ranks of the business sector. I would be very happy to see the existing businesses, particularly those led by progressive women, take up aspiring women and mentor them until they are strong enough to stand on their own. I know quite a number of businesses owned by females. I will establish a link and develop a workable solution in so far as empowerment of young women in general is concerned,” she said.

The new mayor has committed herself to driving a programme aimed at reducing the HIV/Aids prevalence percentage in the area. “We are not going to be working alone on this one. The uMgungundlovu District Municipality is our major sponsor and partner in the fight against HIV/Aids.”

She urged community members to work closely with existing crime-fighting structures in the small town to ensure that criminal activities are scaled down.

MBALI Myeni’s husband died in 2008 and she is the mother of two children aged eight and six. She has been working in the Howick area for the past 10 years. “I have made it my home. My kids are growing up in the community of Howick and are attending school in this area”.

She is reticent about her age though she admits to being in her 30s.

Born in Ladysmith, Myeni matriculated at Ladysmith Secondary School and in 1995 enrolled and completed a bachelor of arts degree at the University of Zululand, majoring in communications science and industrial sociology.

“In 2003, I obtained a BA honours degree in communication science from the University of Zululand. I am currently doing a Masters in business administration through Management College of Southern Africa,” she said.

She said she grew up in a humble but strict family and is the last of five children born to her nurse mother and policeman father, now both retired.

Myeni attributes her strict upbringing to her father, who believed that his children were his “prisoners who should abide by his rules all the time, despite [his] being off duty”. All of her siblings are academic achievers and employed.

She is an R’nB fanatic and lists musicians such as Tamia, Jennifer Hudson, R. Kelly and Luther Vandross as favourites. She also likes listening to jazz by Judith Sephuma, Silaela Selota and music by Lira.

“I listen to gospel — the likes of Joyous Celebration and Mary Mary, generally. I love music. Entertainment brings bliss to my life.”

Myeni also enjoys watching cartoons with her children. “Whenever SpongeBob Squarepants and Fish Hook play, they call me.”

And she likes shopping. “I love shoes the most. I am a full-figured woman so it is important that I wear classy and comfortable clothes.”

Her favourite foods include grilled chicken and nicely cooked salmon, sweet potatoes and tripe.

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