OPEN LETTER TO UMSUNDUZI MUNICIPALITY MAYOR: I long for the days when it was a city of choice

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Msunduzi Municipality’s internal audit during the 2019/20 financial year that ended in June has revealed widespread corruption.
Msunduzi Municipality’s internal audit during the 2019/20 financial year that ended in June has revealed widespread corruption.
Picture: Ian Carbutt

Mxolisi Ngubane has written an open letter to the Umsunduzi municipality mayor, Mzimkhulu Thebolla, saying the years of neglect in Pietermaritzburg is now becoming apparent and remembers when it was the city of choice.

Dear Honourable Mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla,

I write this letter not out of any vices of being an armchair critic, but out of a spirit of concern and a spirit of fostering dialogue and transparency.

Transparency, after all, is an important tenet of our democracy, which still remains dear to me. I hope that this letter will also instil a sense of accountability, not only on your office's part, but also on your colleagues outside your office who have also been called to serve. May it serve as a reminder that those who have the high calling to serve remain accountable to their oath of office and to the electorate.

Although I no longer permanently reside in Pietermaritzburg, it remains home. It will always be home for so long as I have friends and family who continue to reside in Pietermaritzburg.

As the clichéd saying goes, "there is no place like home".

While clichéd, those words are true. However, there are no words that can justly describe the feeling one feels when they watch their home fall apart. No words can describe the emotions that I feel when, with each visit, I watch the litter and waste engulf the city. No words can describe the emotions I feel when I watch the many years of neglect becoming visible in how rapidly and vast the infrastructure is falling apart.

Why have investors left?

The roads are no longer a joy to drive on. The number of buildings standing empty remain a painful reminder of what was, and a reminder of the jobs that have been lost. You are left wondering as to the cause that drives investors out of the city. But above all of this, perhaps the non-existent or minimal existence of service delivery is the most painful to witness. There seems to be no desire to invest in the lives of the people. Their dignity forever remaining on edge. It seems as if the people are forgotten until the eve of the elections.

The year 2021 is scheduled to be an election year.

I sense that this is the year when the importance of the electorate will be recognised. I hope that following the elections, the relevance and importance of the electorate will not be shelved until the eve of the next local elections.

I hope that the electorate's importance and relevance continues to weigh heavily on your office from when you read this, and should you be re-elected as mayor may it continue to weigh heavily for the duration of your term in office. May its weight, together with your oath of office be constant reminders as to who you ultimately serve.

As you prepare for the campaign trail, I hope that a concrete vision for Pietermaritzburg is birthed. I caution, however, that waiting for the commencement of the campaign season may be a little too late for our beloved city. A vision and plan on how to save it is needed now! Without a vision, our city will perish. It will continue on its demise.

I long for the days when my route home was influenced purely by time and distance and not by which route has less potholes (please note that whichever route I take, I am bound to encounter potholes).

I long for the days when water gushing down the street either from a leak or burst pipe was attended to timeously because there was an acknowledgement that this was wastage. However, it seems that a life of makeshift rivers has been forced on the people and yet there is a plea for water to be used sparingly especially given that the province was pulling itself out of a devastating drought.

I long for the days when walking down the city streets and encountering litter, dirt or waste was taboo, rather than the norm. The days when grass grew on soil and not on roads or encroached on the roads.

Endless possibilities

I long for the days when the city functioned as the capital of the province and was afforded that respect. The days when indeed it was the city of choice.

There are endless possibilities for our city. Opportunities that await exploration. Opportunities to create jobs that will, in turn, see people pumping money back into the city's economy. Opportunities to restore dignity through improved service delivery.

Let 2021 be a year of reckoning. A year that the work of restoring Pietermaritzburg (uninfluenced by it being an election year) as the City of Choice begins. A year in which we find our pride in this city of ours. Let this be the year in which the pleas of the electorate and the citizens of Pietermaritzburg will not be tossed aside. A year in which your office is seen as serving the people, engaging with the people and sharing the visions and plans it holds for the city. A year where attributes of leadership are demonstrated. A year where unity amongst the people is sought in rebuilding our city.

I wish you strength for the days that lie ahead. Above all, I wish you strength as you continue the plight of responding to the Covid-19 pandemic. I dip my head in remembrance of those who have succumbed to the virus. I salute all those who are at the frontlines. And I extend my heartfelt support and encouragement to those who are currently fighting the virus, whether from home or hospital.

Yours in aspiring to restoring our city,

Mxolisi Ngubane

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