Metro constraints

2008-06-20 00:00

The extension of the Msunduzi Municiality’s metro status to include all or some of the six other municipalities that make up the uMgungundlovu District may not be happening soon. The Municipal Demarcation Board (MDC) had considered changing boundaries, but excluded it for now because of lengthy legal requirements and the limited time frame within which they were working.

MDC chairman Vuyo Mlokoti, who was in the city this week, spelt out how and why. He said that the creation of more metro cities in South Africa has been a long-standing issue and for the past few years they have been looking closely at the cities that meet the mix of requirements as set out by national policies and legislation. These include such criteria as population density, movement of people, goods and services, multiple business districts and industrial areas and rates base. Msunduzi, Buffalo City (East London) and Mangaung came top of the list of the nine areas they considered.

As these cities in themselves met the criteria without the need to change their boundaries, the MDC decided to go ahead so that the process of granting them metro status would fit in with the

Independent Electoral Commission (IEC) timetable.

The IEC wanted all boundaries fixed by August 2008 so that they could work on establishing voting districts. Changing boundaries would involve a more complex, lengthier process that would have gone beyond this deadline. Mlokoti said they debated whether they should go the longer route, but felt that not having more metro cities in the country at this stage would affect national development. Their reasoning was that the voting districts are set for the national election in 2009. These districts have to remain the same for the 2011 local government election. This would therefore mean that the additional metro cities would only have come into being in 2016.

“We can’t wait until 2016. It will affect development,” said Mlokoti.

Asked if they had set themselves too short a time frame, Mlokoti didn’t believe this was the case. He said the creation of more metro cities has been under consideration for a long time and there was a complex conurbation of factors that were constantly being reviewed.

Mlokoti did not rule out that there could be boundary changes to the Msunduzi Metro. He pointed out that the Tswane Municipality became a metro in 2000 and that they are now expanding the boundaries. He also acknowledged that the current public participation process, after the board’s announcement on the creation of three new metros, is not yet over.

Besides submissions from the Umgungundlovu District to be part of Msunduzi, the Amatola District municipality has also asked to be included in the Buffalo metro.

According to Mlokoti in the board’s own consideration, including the whole district in the metro may result in huge geographic areas to be serviced.

“The rural part of the metro may be much bigger than the urban area. Service delivery problems can perhaps be addressed by decentralised offices, sub-councils with delegated powers and functions and an effective and efficient ward committee system.

On the option of adding one or more municipalities to the metro area, Mlokoti said the impact on the remaining part of the district area must be considered in terms of its tax base and planning and here capacity building may have to be prioritised to ensure viability outside the metro. Similarly if portions of adjacent municipalities are included there would be a need to look at how the remaining portions continue.

He said other considerations on using the current boundaries included:

• research that showed large-scale restructuring in municipalities since 1994 had detracted from service delivery;

• restructuring and transformation fatigue had taken its toll in most municipalities in the past eight years;

• there was less administrative disruption; and

• incorporating more or portions of other local municipalities would lead to time-consuming organisational restructuring which would include dealing with assets and

liabilities. Establishing the core metros first will be more than two years that is available in planning and preparation in this regard.

In conclusion, Mlokoti reiterated that using the current boundaries will fit their programme into the IEC timetable and will result in little administrative disruption. Above all, it will mean that the country will have three more metro cities in 2011 rather than in 2016.

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