2008-06-19 00:00

Public hearings are currently under way before the Municipal Demarcation Board on the boundaries that should best circumscribe the imminent establishment of Pietermaritzburg/Msunduzi as a metropolitan city. The initial declaration from the side of the government was that there should be no change in existing boundaries.

To many the omission particularly of Hilton and the Howick area seemed shortsighted because they are nearby and could, if included, derive benefit from the stronger financial muscle that the metro will possess.

Now all six municipalities in the far-flung uMgungundlovu District Municipality are clamouring to be included. It is an understandable plea from those representing the mainly poor and under-resourced rural communities around the wider perimeters of the city. Yet their full inclusion would create a unit so large that its administration could become a bureaucratic nightmare.

While acknowledging that there is room for streamlining, there is also a case for caution, especially in regard to any smaller municipalities that are functioning well and are readily accessible to the people.

The key will be to find the right balance between too narrow a definition of boundaries and one that is too wide. The eThekwini(Durban) metro is geographically huge and is functioning remarkably well, but it has an industrial and commercial base which does not exist to anything like the same extent in Pietermaritzburg. For the smaller capital city a more realistic compromise needs to be found.

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