5-year plan for city

2017-09-06 12:52
Msunduzi mayor Themba Njilo at the media briefing held at Tourism Hub on Tuesday.

Msunduzi mayor Themba Njilo at the media briefing held at Tourism Hub on Tuesday. (Ian Carbutt)

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Five years.

That’s how long it will take for Pietermaritzburg residents to see the fruits of the City’s labours and a “real” difference in services.

This was the undertaking on Tuesday from Msunduzi as Mayor Themba Njilo delivered a detailed report on the council’s plans for the city, following numerous media reports on the issues plaguing the city.

Before Njilo could take to the podium at the Tourism Hub, acting City manager Sizwe Hadebe stepped in to tell journalists that the media briefing was “to set the record straight”.

Hadebe said he felt the municipality’s voice was not recorded in the media reports “the way it should have been”.

“We seem to be on the back foot because of some reports. The public, media and the municipality are critical partners in ensuring the turnaround for the City. We appeal to the public, as well, to work with us,” he said.

Njilo said the City is sitting at a “critical point of change ... at the brink of realising its quest for metropolitan status”.

URBAN DECAY
AND CLEANLINESS

The municipality is in the process of implementing two City Improvement Districts (CIDs) as part of an initiative to revitalise the city. With the assistance of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business, Njilo said the “uptown and downtown” business districts would be the focal points for this initiative. “Uptown” is an area starting at Boshoff Street and reaching the railway station while “downtown” covers the area below Boshoff Street.

Njilo said people from those specific business areas would be able to ring-fence an extra amount into their municipal accounts, over and above their usual rates, to provide immediate funds for extra services like repairing of potholes and manholes and cleaning for the area that will be done by the municipal contractors.

Other services, such as 24-hour security for the area, could be hired by the management team for that area and paid for with the extra funds collected. The management team would be established with input from the public and private sector for that specific area.

The City said they are now awaiting feedback from property owners in those areas.

ELECTRICITY OUTAGE

Msunduzi blamed the numerous power outages in recent months on illegal connections and vandalism.

General manager for economic development Dr Ray Ngcobo dismissed allegations that National Energy Regulator of South Africa (Nersa) was considering removing the City’s electricity distribution licence for failing to properly provide the service.

In his report, Njilo said the electricity grid was overloaded because of the increase in illegal electricity connections across the City. He said they were addressing the issue by electrifying informal settlements through grants from the Department of Energy.

He said that “a new phenomenon” has taken over, where substations are being damaged and electricity conductors and equipment stolen.

The council would replace the wooden doors on substations with steel doors to make it harder for thieves to gain access, he said, adding that ageing infrastructure was also “a big contributing factor” to the unplanned outages.

As part of the Network Development Plan, Njilo said that by the end of this year, all 33 kv cables would be replaced with 132 kv cables and Retief, Northdale and Prince Alfred substations would be upgraded.

He added that a new substation is being built in Eastwood and construction is expected to be completed by the end of the year.

PIETERMARITZBURG AIRPORT

Msunduzi Municipality took over the management of the Pietermaritzburg Airport in May this year but Njilo said they soon discovered a series of infrastructure collapses, like the problems with the runway and approach lights, due to the lack of maintenance.

Council is looking at appointing a facilities management company that will take care of maintenance issues. Njilo said this appointment was in its final stages and the appointment would happen soon. He said the airport precinct is an “important economic node” within the city and the N3 corridor.

The DA’s caucus leader Sibongiseni Majola said that as much as the media briefing was needed, it was merely “an executive summary of Msunduzi and not a true reflection of what is going on”.

Majola was among numerous councillors, senior municipal officials and the media invited to Msunduzi Mayor Themba Njilo’s one-year in office address at the Tourism Hub on Tuesday.

Majola accused Njilo of presenting “only the good side”.

“There was no budget attached to all these plans.

“It is all well and good to say we have all these great plans to turn the city around, but do we have the money for all this?” Majola asked.

He said although Njilo spoke of some of the challenges that faced the city, he failed to speak about the fire services that are non-compliant, among other issues. 

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