PMB fails metro test

2009-12-22 00:00

PIETERMARITZBURG will not be a metro city come 2011, the Municipal Demarcation Board (MDB) announced last week.

The board has resolved that Msunduzi will remain a category B municipality within the jurisdiction of the uMgungundlovu District Municipality after the 2011 local government elections. The MDB is to publish a notice on its decision in the Provincial Gazette. There will be a further 30 days to lodge objections and the board’s final decision on the matter will be made by February 2010.

The MDB re-opened debate on the metro issue in September following representation by the provincial government.

Meanwhile, Buffalo City (East London) and Mangaung (Bloemfontein), the two other cities that were earmarked for metro status along with Msunduzi, have been declared category A municipalities and will be joining the ranks of the big cities by 2011.

Opposition parties are furious at this development and blame infighting in the ANC for costing the city its metro status.

They say this means that Pietermaritzburg will lose out on a substantial boost of funding from national government. It will also lose out on becoming known worldwide as one of South Africa’s eight major cities. They claim this would have been a valuable branding and marketing tool to encourage investment and to allow the city to become a development node.

The DA’s Bill Lambert said the board’s announcement means metro status is out of the window. He said the DA knew this was bound to happen when Co-operative Government MEC Nomsa Dube failed to gazette the changed status by the July 30 deadline.

“We are back to square one. It is very sad indeed that all these political shenanigans, this factionalism within the ANC, has caused us to remain behind and exactly where we stood before. In the meanwhile, cities like East London and Bloemfontein get their new status and will be steaming ahead,” said Lambert.

Lambert said the worst part is that, according to the MDB, the city met all the criteria to become a metro, and this was announced amid much euphoria.

“The whole situation seems to be a case of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. Why the about-turn when it seems that we were forging ahead towards metro status, then suddenly talk of not wanting Pietermaritzburg alone to be a metro, but to include surrounding municipalities? What does it matter if it happens now or later — others would have been included. The board had initially advocated an incremental approach.

“Well, there are still 30 days to go with objections. Who knows, anything can happen. We have to try and remain positive until the bitter end,” he advised.

The IFP’s Dolo Zondi said it is disgraceful that Pietermaritzburg, as the capital city of the province, will not become a metro by 2011. “This is a disservice to the area. The problem with our municipality is that the ANC is divided into two camps and they are fighting among themselves.

“Either the province does not approve of this infighting or supports one or other faction. Either way they have chosen not to support Msunduzi alone gaining metro status, and want the entire district to become a metro,” he said.

Zondi said the infighting is obscuring the bigger picture. “Things cannot all be done at once. Why could the pro­vince not support the incremental approach of gradually expanding the boundaries of the metro?” he asked.

Andrew Layman, CEO of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business, described the development as disappointing. He said the chamber’s position has always been to support the city’s achieving metro status if there is a plan to extend boundaries in the future. This would include the greater area from Mkhambatini to Howick.

Layman had previously noted the effect on community confidence and the psyche of the city if metro status is delayed.

“The imminence of metropolitan status has already inspired greater confidence in the future of the city and encouraged many stakeholders to think bigger and bolder in their approach to planning. Investors are also affected by this status issue, and the consequences of the decision to put the matter in limbo again will relate to a deflation of the city’s hopes for its future.”

The Witness sent an e-mail to the chairman of the MDB, Landiwe Mahlangu, asking what informed the board’s decision to retain Msunduzi as a category B municipality. A staff member indicated he will respond shortly.

Municipal manager Rob Haswell referred queries to the council.

Attempts to contact Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo on her cellphone and via SMS's were unsuccessful.

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