ANC treasurer-general and presidential hopeful Zweli Mkhize has hit out at the “lack of vision” which has led to Pietermaritzburg’s inner city decaying.The former KZN premier criticised the failure to deal urgently with the issue, saying it reflected badly on the city leadership.The deteriorating conditions in the inner city — where crime is rampant and infrastructure is crumbling — have led to an exodus of shops and major businesses. Mkhize warned those running the city that if they did not solve the problem immediately “the whole community will be in a problem”.“Remember the Bible verse that says ‘our people are perishing because of lack of vision’?”Mkhize was speaking at a gala dinner organised by Umzansi Youth in Business held at the Golden Horse Casino on Wednesday night.Mkhize was asked by ANC Youth League regional chairperson Mxolisi Mkhize about inner city decay. “When we grew up there was Upper Crust [Bakery] in town, but it is no longer there. Boxer is no longer there. Nando’s and KFC have also left. There are rumours that Jonathan Spar is also closing down.“Business people are left with no choice really, because they have to think about their customers’ safety,” Mxolisi said, adding his concern as a youth leader was that these closures added to the high unemployment rate.Mkhize bemoaned the lack of investment, socio-economic dynamics and insufficient efforts to solve the problem of inner city decay.“To change that, you have to talk about how do we attract a large amount of investment into the city so that they can rehabilitate the buildings, so that they create more jobs. “It is about bringing in major investors who will come in. The only way to do that is to assure investors that there will be no crime. “So mobilisation of police, security, community — together with educational institutions — is important.”Mkhize said the problem could not be solved by getting rid of the vagrants.“Drugs are going to be our future challenge. Drugs are here to stay. Poverty is rising. Crime is endemic. Those problems cannot be solved with a once-off action. They require a huge amount of mobilisation. They require inter-sectoral and interdepartmental co-ordination. They require focused approach by leadership who control various aspects of this municipality,” he said.Attempts to get comment from ANC regional secretary Mzi Zuma were unsuccessful. Msunduzi municipal spokesperson Thobeka Mafumbatha said the council needed more time to formulate a response to Mkhize’s statements. Mkhize is one of seven ANC leaders in the party leadership race, but did not address this issue in his remarks.