MEC asks for rethink of metro status for Pietermaritzburg

2009-10-19 00:00

THE champagne was opened too soon on Msunduzi Municipality’s metro status. The Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) has, at the eleventh hour, re-opened discussion on the status of the municipality, publishing a notice to this effect in Friday’s Witness.

The board said it was asked by KwaZulu-Natal Local Government MEC Nomsa Dube to reconsider its decision about granting Msunduzi metro status.

Opposition parties accuse the board of caving in to political demands and blame factionalism and infighting in the ANC for costing Msunduzi its metro status by 2011.

According to the notice, the board is re-opening the discussion on the determination of Maritzburg’s boundaries, which will result in Msunduzi remaining a Category B municipality and being re-included in uMgungundlovu District Municipality. The public has 21 days from Friday to submit written representations and views to the demarcation board.

Vernon Mc­hunu, Dube’s spokesman, was telephoned and sent an e-mail by The Witness asking on what basis the MEC made her request. No response was received by the time of going to press. However, Dube, writing in The Witness earlier this month, presented the view that poorer surrounding municipalities should be included in a metro or there would be an imbalance of development in the area.

This is not an argument opposition parties buy. They argue that with Maritzburg becoming a metro there would be a knock-on effect in terms of development, and then by 2016 the entire district could become part of the metro. By denying Msunduzi metro status by 2011, development in the entire area will be delayed until 2016, they say.

Meanwhile, the two other cities that were selected by the MDB to be metros — Manguang (Bloemfontein) and Buffalo City (East London) — will be steaming ahead in terms of development.

The Democratic Alliance describes the re-opening of the issue as “blatant political interference brought about by interal party political strife within the ANC at the expense of the benefits this would bring to the city”.

Roger Ashe, the DA chief whip in the Msunduzi Municipality, said it has been widely reported that there are two factions within the local ANC.

“It is understood that one faction of the ANC still privately supports a metro status for the city, but won’t break party ranks, so it appears that once again the ANC is going to disappoint citizens,” he added.

Local IFP leader Dolo Zondi condemned the politicisation of the issue. He said residents will suffer as there will be a loss of financial advantages that would accrue if the city were to become a metro.

He said he prays that after this latest 21-day objection period, reason will prevail and Msunduzi will be allowed to become a metro.

The factions are reportedly split over whom each grouping wants to head the metro. One faction supports Msunduzi Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo and the other backs uMgungundlovu District Mayor Yusuf Bhamjee.

Apparently the rift extends from within the municipality to regional and provincial ANC structures.

At the heart of the matter, say insiders, is the fact that the position of metro mayor is an extremely powerful one. Besides controlling a vast budget, the mayor is allowed to set up a regional party committee and “call all the shots”.

Both Hlatshwayo and Bhamjee were not available for comment. It is understood they are on their way to Cape Town where President Jacob Zuma has called a meeting of all local government mayors and municipal managers to read them the riot act about the need for service delivery.

The South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) has a different take on the metro issue. It believes the current batch of senior officials employed by the municipality are not up to the task of running a metro city. During a protest march on Thursday the union highlighted allegations of maladministration, corruption and ineptitude and have called on Dube to intervene.

The MDB is adamant it has not caved into pressure.

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