Isolated metro ‘will widen chasm’

2009-10-30 00:00

NEWS reports and opinions that have been published in this newspaper on the matter around the metro status of Msunduzi have reference.

As the MEC tasked with ensuring an effective system of local governance and as the implementer of service delivery, may I say at the onset that I stand in support of the determination of a Category A municipality in the uMgungundlovu District area.

But I am vehemently opposed to the determination of only the Msunduzi municipal area as a metro, to the exclusion of the rest of the district areas.

As the department, we feel that the board’s proposal would be counterproductive to the objectives of the state to promote shared growth.

If it went ahead, such a redetermination would most certainly widen the chasm between the rich and the poor, benefiting only those already advantaged, at the cost of those who have been, and are still, disadvantaged.

It is feared that such a decision could ultimately give rise to public unrest and extreme political tensions in the period leading to the 2011 municipal polls.

Many areas surrounding the current Msunduzi Municipal boundaries are inextricably linked, and contribute directly, to the economic activities and prosperity of Msunduzi. It is this very same economic prosperity that is highly dependant on vast sections of the surrounding municipalities that are now to be alienated from this centre of economic activity.

Creating an isolated Pietermaritzburg metro does not only prejudice the future growth prospects of the surrounding areas, but also that of their proposed new metropolitan area. Holistically viewed, the approach compromises the entire nation’s prosperity.

The shape of the remaining district municipal area —  viewed against the distribution of the population, the transport and infrastructure networks, topography, as well as the catchments and drainage patterns — clearly indicates that the excision of Msunduzi from this district will impact extremely negatively on the integrated service delivery modus operandi. The Provincial Spatial Economic Development Strategy has identified the N3 corridor from eThekwini, through Mkhambathini, Msunduzi, uMngeni and further on, as one of the priority growth and development corridors in the province. In terms of the strategy, it is argued that institutional structures and arrangements should be streamlined, simplified and rationalised to promote and give effect to the growth and development targets set for this corridor. The current determination of Msunduzi only as a Category A municipality will, however, lead to dire misalignment and disintegration of development along this corridor.

The area for which integrated planning and service delivery is required is clearly much broader than just the current boundaries of the Msunduzi Municipality.

In view of the current poverty levels within the existing Msunduzi municipal area, it is crucial to avoid a situation of further uncontrolled migration and urbanisation of the surrounding poor population into Msunduzi. Such a trend will increase the risk of a total collapse of infrastructure services that are already experiencing severe strain. It would therefore be prudent for a newly established metropolitan municipality to be able to manage migration trends over a broader area. This management capability would be hampered and restricted within a limited urban management area.

• Nomusa Dube, MPL, is the MEC for Local Government and Traditional Affairs, KwaZulu-Natal.

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