Poor governance to blame for degenerating city, say experts

2017-10-13 13:45
Pietermaritzburg city centre.

Pietermaritzburg city centre. (File)

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The apparent decay of Pietermaritzburg’s CBD is indicative of poor urban governance, experts have said.

Town planning experts warned that the continued decay of the city’s downtown precinct would diminish the confidence the private sector had in investing in the CBD.

The Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB) on Thursday feared that further “degeneration and disinvestment” could occur if a solution was not implemented urgently.

The Witness has reported numerous times in recent months of vagrant drug addicts, crime and filth affecting business owners in the city centre.

The problem has caused at least four major city-based outlets to close.

Now, as reported this week, businesses in the Raisethorpe CBD said they were facing the same problems, and tenants there are considering fleeing should the situation continue.

Dr Koyi Mchunu, of the University of KwaZulu-Natal’s town and regional planning faculty, said a lack of good governance was usually what sparked the decline of a CBD.

“If there was proper governance and visionary leadership, they would see [the decay] coming and put together strategies to arrest it or, if it’s at an advanced stage, put together remedial structures.”

Mchunu said a city centre in decay would detract investment from the private sector, and that it would also likely see major developments being moved to the outskirts of the city. He said an example of this was big developments being earmarked for Umhlanga instead of Durban’s CBD.

Speaking about Pietermartizburg specifically, he doubted that there would be a “complete shutdown” of the CBD. “There will be government offices and other things that will carry on and guarantee some economic turnover.”

Geography professor at UKZN Brij Maharaj said the decline of South African CBDs were generally because of neglect from the powers that be, which was “followed by capital disinvestment”.

Professor of town and regional planning at the University of Pretoria Karina Landman explained that the perception of crime in a CBD — whether founded or not — had been shown to cause businesses and customers to flee.

She said a municipality would need to re-establish private sector confidence in such a situation by itself investing heavily in the CBD.

“Public investment precedes private investment, and the public sector investing heavily in projects to rejuvenate the city will send a message to the private sector.”

The PCB said it was concerned with the decay of the CBD.

CEO Melanie Veness said: “The issues of crime, grime and general decay need to be addressed urgently if we expect to maintain an appropriate level of tenancy in the city.”

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  msunduzi municipality

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