Msunduzi Metro

2008-04-29 00:00

There are compelling reasons why Msunduzi should be redesignated as a category A local authority. The puzzle is why it was not awarded this status when the new local government structure was originally adopted; and why it has been answerable to Umgungundlovu District Municipality, an inexplicable fate for a provincial capital.

Urban geographers would have no hesitation in designating the area stretching along the N3 corridor from Camperdown to Howick a conurbation. High population density, intense traffic flows between an economic hub and a number of local business and industrial districts, and strong regional identity, are factors that also satisfy the government’s definition.

Msunduzi already exercises functions expected of a category A authority such as water provision and the operation of an airport, cemetery and landfill site. As a metro it would simply extend its geographic reach. This would surely signal a deserved end to the district municipality, a proven obstacle to the development of the region and a breeding ground for incompetence and alleged corruption. And it would also allow frustrated Hilton and Howick residents to escape the often controversial administration of uMngeni Municipality.

Above all, metro status would make it easier for Msunduzi to acquire central government funds. While all major political parties are behind the current application, a note of caution is necessary. The existing municipality has a budget of well over R2 billion and a staff of 3 500. Their performance stands up well in comparison with neighbouring municipalities, but this provides no room for complacency. The volume and persistence of complaints by Msunduzi residents received by this newspaper indicate frustration with a standard that often falls short.

If metro status is awarded to Msunduzi, A-grade human resources will also be required, with greater attention paid to appointment on proven ability. Structural change provides opportunity for economies of scale, integrated planning and other benefits to the taxpayer. But these will only be fulfilled if managerial competence and the ability to plan wisely and consistently match increased responsibility. Alongside talk of structures and boundaries there must be a commitment to improve service delivery to all the people of the area.

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