DA’s vision for PMB

2011-04-15 00:00

IT is a privilege to be the mayoral candidate for any party in a local­ government election, but there is something very special about being the candidate for my home town, Pietermaritzburg.

I grew up in Imbali, and even during the dark days of the political violence of the eighties and the nineties I believed that the people of this city had enormous potential for growth and success, which was not permitted to be realised by the then dominant political forces. Apartheid was a dead end and was becoming increasingly vicious­ in its last days, while the African National Congress (ANC) and the Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) were locked into their mutually­ destructive battle in which the residents of Ashdown, Edendale and Imbali were trapped and powerless.

Residents today feel equally trapped and powerless, faced by the ruin which the ANC has brought upon our city. They cannot understand how their rights as ratepayers and consumers have been so flouted by those in power in city hall and how so many millions could be wasted on useless projects or self-serving party political extravaganzas. They cannot understand why so many senior figures in the ANC have apparently escaped ever being held accountable for the gross mismanagement and collapse of service delivery which has affected every community in the city.

They cannot understand how the ruling party candidates can apparently enter the upcoming election campaign without any sense of shame or recognition that their policies of cronyism have directly led to the financial collapse of what was once a triple AAA+ credit-rated municipality, and who will do so again if they are allowed back into power.

Part of the frustration of being an Imbali teenager during those years of transition to democracy, full of excitement at the possibilities for change, but also having a fear of the realities of ongoing violence­, necklacing and petrol bombing was that one had the sense that there were no viable alternatives to the competing racial nationalisms offered by either the IFP or ANC.

Today of course there is an alternative and the whole country can see exactly what it looks like — from a metro like Cape Town, to a large town like Midvaal or the small rural municipality such as Baviaans, which are all examples of successful Democratic Alliance (DA) government.

As the mayoral candidate for the DA in Pietermaritzburg I believe that the potential of Pietermaritzburg and its people is still to be realised. If we get the basics right of balancing income with expenditure, putting the right officials into the right jobs and then holding them accountable, this could be a great African city where all its residents can have a sense of pride and ownership.

Success breeds success, but until we can feel part of a shared city government where city hall respects and listens to residents, there will never be any profits from real investment by businesses and private citizens who want to be a part of our success story.

Many experts have commented on the difficulties that workers face every day just getting around the city to work and shop. Our transport system is creaking towards traffic gridlock and my first planning priority as mayor would be to rethink and consult extensively on what can be done over a reasonable time scale to get people­ moving efficiently on both the east-west and the north-south corridors.

The much proposed, but never completed, land-use planning scheme for the city is a typical example­ of the failure of the ANC, both to consult properly with residents and to hold officials accountable for delivery. How else can one explain the delays of years (this was being debated when I was first a councillor nearly 10 years ago)? The DA supports the creation of inclusionary housing developments which provide for a range of income levels and we would look aggressively for such opportunities to be created. We could, for example, enter into real negotiations with the Department of Defence to achieve a land swop that would accommodate the needs of the Natal Carbineers for a proper home, while giving the city access to much-needed residential development land in the heart of our CBD.

The centre of our city should be a vibrant mix of shoppers, office workers and tourists enjoying the unique heritage of buildings and historical landmarks. This is a totally­ unrealised potential which cities the world over would die to possess as a marketing attraction. We would institute the type of private-public partnership with business and property owners which has proved so successful in bringing safe, clean streets to the CBD of Cape Town, while at the same time creating hundreds of new job opportunities in the tourist and hospitality industries.

Our other priorities in restoring pride to Msunduzi would involve going beyond the timid steps of the current ANC-imposed administration team. Criminal charges need to be brought against those who were complicit in the appalling mismanagement of the recent past. The cost of employing dozens of politically protected ANC cronies in non-delivery jobs must be addressed through a radical jobs audit of the entire municipality. Units which deliver no appreciable value, such as the area-based management section, must go, while sections that are crucial to proper financial control, such as the internal audit unit, need a complete overhaul to remove unqualified political appointees.

Cleaning up Pietermaritzburg will take time, but the DA has the candidates and the policies to achieve this vision.

• Sizwe Mchunu is the DA Msunduzi mayoral candidate and provincial leader, and a member of the provincial legislature.

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