The two big Midlands municipalities, Msunduzi and uMgungundlovu, are muscling up against each other to become a regional metro.Despite persistent financial problems, a high vacancy rate and negative audit opinions, the City of Choice has been chasing the tagline of being a metropole for almost a decade. It lost out in 2016 but still had hopes that its proposal of being the province’s second metro would be discussed before the 2021 local government elections. However, it could have some competition as uMgungundlovu District is also muscling up to become a metro before 2021. If uMgungundlovu’s bid succeeds, this would see its economic hub, Msunduzi, being combined with the district’s family of seven local municipalities, which include ailing Mpofana and Richmond.A recent council report indicated that Msunduzi wanted to go it alone as it pushed for its bid to renew its membership of the South African Cities Network (SACN), which is a body of the country’s eight metros.In 2013 Msunduzi joined South Africa’s metros as the only secondary city to be part of the prestigious network. This led to Msunduzi reaping developmental benefits such as being included in the World Bank’s sub-national business programme led by National Treasury.“Although the programme is aimed at metros, Msunduzi was included owing to its membership with SACN as a flagship secondary city with aspirations of obtaining metro level status in the future,” read a report by the City’s economist, Dashanta Reddy.In 2017 Msunduzi’s affiliation to SACN expired when the municipality failed to pay membership fees and in June last year council resolved that this be rectified.Owing to the municipality’s financial problems, the City has requested that the outstanding fees be waived until it is financially stable and that SACN “play a direct and supportive role in the recovery plan instituted by the administrator of the Msunduzi Municipality”.Reddy said SACN was a hub of knowledge that enhanced planning and mitigation of challenges plaguing the country, and it exposed the metros to developmental opportunities that would attract international investors.