uMgungundlovu aims to unite seven municipalities into one metro

2017-12-29 13:45
uMgungundlovu District municipal manager Dr Ray Ngcobo has been tasked with driving the renewed efforts to attain metro status for the district.

uMgungundlovu District municipal manager Dr Ray Ngcobo has been tasked with driving the renewed efforts to attain metro status for the district. (File)

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uMgungundlovu District Municipality is pulling out all the stops to make sure it becomes the country’s ninth metropolitan area before the next local government elections, which will be held in 2021.

New municipal manager Dr Ray Ngcobo has been tasked with overseeing the renewed efforts that will see a mega merger of seven local municipalities in the district to form one council.

A special office has been set up in Ngcobo’s office to oversee the process.

In an interview with The Witness on Thursday, Ngcobo said he was confident this time the district will get the metro status.

The new uMgungundlovu municipal manager is no stranger to controversy, but on Thursday dismissed allegations that he was involved in any prior wrongdoing.

As the former Msunduzi economic development business unit general manager, he faced two charges of gross ­misconduct, two of gross dishonesty and one of gross negligence while at the municipality in 2015.

He stood accused of ordering furniture for the tourism hub without following supply chain management procedures.

He was also accused of paying R7 million to a company to provide temporary housing at Jika Joe settlement after a fire, but the housing never materialised.

Ngcobo on Thursday maintained his stance that these charges had been fabricated, hence the investigation against him was stopped.

He claimed he was victimised for being a whistle-blower in a case that involved the former municipal manager at the time.

Turning to the metro status, he said an attempt was first made to attain this before the 2016 local government elections, but stalled.

Ngcobo said the process had started late in the previous attempt and they would avoid a repeat of that.

“We are moving with speed. Ideally we should be ready by 2019.

“It is going to be time-consuming and very demanding. My engagement with mayor [Thobekile Maphumulo] is that we have to include it in our day- to-day operations. Processes are under way and I am hopeful that we will be able satisfy all the requirements of the demarcation board.

“I am talking to people like Dr Michael Sutcliffe and other experts. I have engaged with Msunduzi’s municipal manager and I will be engaging all other municipal managers in the district to second people to the special office.

“There is goodwill to get involved,” he said.

Ngcobo said the district would even be going overseas to source experts in economic development, which is one of the requirements for any municipality to get metro status.

According to the Municipal Structures Act, a metro has to have areas of high population density, extensive development, multiple business districts and industrial areas and a centre of economic activity. 

There must also be strong inter­dependent social and economic links between its areas.

The “N3 corridor”, which will include Mkhambathini, Msunduzi, uMngeni and Mooi Mpofana muni-cipalities, has been earmarked for economic development activities.

Ngcobo said that the national government was planning to pump in money for infrastucture upgrades to attract investors who would build factories.

Ngcobo said attaining  metropolitan area status would also see national government channelling more grants to the district.
“That will enable us to provide more services to the people,” he said.

Ngcobo said the move would also bridge the inequality gap in the region.

“It means people in Richmond will be getting the same services as people in Pietermaritzburg. 

“It means we will be able to cross subsidise. Areas that are not able to collect, will not suffer. 

“Money from areas of economic concentration like Msunduzi, which are better able to collect revenue, that money will go to the district revenue fund. 

“Priorities will be determined and areas that are not able to collect will not suffer. 

“There is going to be a principle of redistribution. 

“The current system is perpetuating inequality,” he said.

Ngcobo said having one council would also save millions of rands being channelled to the district’s eight councils. 

Ngcobo also promised to beef up internal audit procedures to make sure the district improves to win a clean audit opinion as opposed to the unqualified audit opinion in the previous financial year.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg

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