Metro status for Msunduzi

2008-05-22 00:00

Msunduzi Municipality is to become a metro, city manager Rob Haswell, who has championed this cause since the early 1990s, announced yesterday.

Council’s executive committee (Exco) could not contain their excitement, saying the decision will mean a substantial boost to the city coffers from national government.

They said metro status also means that Pietermaritzburg will become known worldwide as one of South Africa’s nine major cities — a valuable branding and marketing tool.

Msunduzi received the news from the chairman of the Municipal Demarcation Board, Vuyo Mlokoti, who said the board proposed that Msunduzi as well as the municipalities of Buffalo (East London) and Mangaung (Bloemfontein) become Category A municipalities or metros.

Mlokoti said the Msunduzi boundaries will not change. This will be disappointing for Hilton and Howick residents’ associations, which made representations that their municipality should be absorbed into the metro structure.

But Msunduzi will no longer be part of the uMgungundlovu District Municipality, which will continue to function with the remaining six local municipalities — uMshwathi, uMngeni, Mpofana, Impendle, Mkhambathini and Richmond.

Haswell said the board will now issue a Section 21 notice announcing the metro status and the public will have a further 30 days to lodge objections and make suggestions before the proposal is formally finalised by way of an announcement in the Government Gazette.

He expected the entire process to be completed by August in time for preparation for the 2009 national elections.

The Hilton and Howick residents’ associations plan to use this period to make further submissions requesting the board to consider broadening the boundaries, if not now then at a later stage.

Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo said the chairman of the Demarcation Board expressed his appreciation specifically to Msunduzi for the number of submissions received and the generally overwhelming support for metro status.

She said the city has always performed the functions of a metro and the fact that the boundaries do not change should make for a smooth transition.

Deputy Mayor Mervin Dirks said the city’s new status will give a major boost to its coffers. At present the equitable share from national government is R134 million. “Now that we are a metro, this amount will treble,” he said.

Opposition parties added their voice to the celebrations.

The IFP’s Dolo Zondi said his party has always believed in the devolution of power, and metro status means more money for development in poorer communities.

Bill Lambert of the DA said it was wonderful to have something to smile about. He recalled Haswell’s dedication to the fight for metro status. “The municipal manager has been a dog with a bone on this issue, he has never given up.”

Lambert added that metro status will mean the attraction of more investment and growth and there will be more money to fix the city’s ageing infrastructure.

Asked whether the municipality has the administrative capacity to cope with the changed status, Haswell said they will have more money to offer competitive salaries to attract and retain skilled staff.

Hlatshwayo added that the city’s new status gives a huge morale boost. She said the municipality will have to live up to its metro status. She said they are in the course of restructuring their administration and this can be done with city’s metro status in mind as well as the expectations of the public at large.

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