Ekurhuleni is a Metropolitan Municipality with the largest concentration of industry in South Africa (and in Africa). The Municipality covers a wide area from Germiston in the west to Springs and Nigel in the east. It aims to provide affordable, sustainable and people-centred services across its housing, transportation and industry sectors.
Ekurhuleni is one of six Metropolitan Municipalities created by government restructuring. The municipality came from the former local administrations of nine towns in the East Rand – Alberton, Benoni, Boksburg, Brakpan, Edenvale/Lethabong, Germiston, Kempton Park/Tembisa, Nigel and Springs. These towns, along with the Khayalami Metropolitan Council and the Eastern Gauteng Services Council, joined together in 2000 and Ekurhuleni was established. In an interview with Price Waterhouse Coopers, the Executive Mayor of Ekurhuleni Metropolitan Municipality, Mr Duma Nkosi, said that “the major challenge is to create a single identity in the context of the collection of a number of different towns.” Mr Nkosi said that diversity management, changing service needs, system compatibility, culture and scale of services were important for Ekurhuleni.
The Municipality now has a population of 2.5 million people over a total land area of 2,000km. Needless to say, Ekurhuleni is an extraordinarily lively city. The municipality holds 28% of Gauteng’s population (5.6% of the national population), with population density at approximately 1,250 people per km. This alone makes Ekurhuleni one of the most densely populated areas in the country and province.
The Municipality is well diversified economically: in fact, Ekurhuleni’s economy is more diverse than many of the smaller countries in Africa and South Africa. It accounts for almost a quarter of the Gauteng economy, which in turn comprises more than a third of the national GDP.
7% of the country’s spending power comes from the Ekurhuleni Municipality, and is is responsible for 7.4% of the nation’s production. Its main indicators of development- per capita income, unemployment, poverty, average wages and other indicators of human development show similarities to the rest of Gauteng. Mr Duma Nkosi spoke in particular about the Municipality’s economy. He said:
“Ekurhuleni has a number of key strengths. It has well-established transport and other infrastructure, a strong manufacturing base in a period when this sector is expanding reasonably vigorously in South Africa (despite current declines associated with the strong rand), and an outstanding location in the country’s economic heartland with a key airport linking Southern Africa to the rest of the world.”
The Executive Mayor also said:
“South Africa is no longer isolated but is a major player in the global economy. Ekurhuleni needs to understand the environment and respond accordingly”
The Executive Major role has given Mr Nkosi a great insight of the city. He has identified three key solutions to potential economic challenges. First, Ekurhuleni must continue to ensure that the competitiveness of the lead sectors in the economy is protected and promoted, and that new businesses are attracted. The Municipality must also seek new foci for economic growth, particularly for SMEs, which generate employment whilst expanding opportunities and overall availability of resources. Finally, the city must “enhance the livelihoods and facilitate the subsistence economy of the large proportion of the population who are unlikely to be drawn into the more formal economy, or the SMEs.”
Mr Nkosi has also called for greater cooperation between Tshwane, Johannesburg and Ekurhuleni Metros. This is because the other metros have experienced similar challenges, so they may have developed strategies, tried and tested systems, programmes and procedures for Ekurhuleni to consider. For example, ring-fencing electricity and the establishment of the Regional Electricity Distributor may be used for Ekurhuleni. Therefore, efforts must be made to ensure that this initiative works. This involves the consultation of neighbouring regions.
Although the Ekurhuleni Metro has made significant improvement of people’s lives in South Africa (since the first democratic elections in 1994) many challenges remain. While much has been done, much more still needs to be done to grow and develop. From the Municipality’s earliest days, strategic development processes have been utilised. These have greatly helped the Metro establish itself as one of the major urban metropolises in the country. However, most of these processes were initiated in the absence of a single overarching development strategy. Now, the Municipality is looking forward with a clear vision as a ‘smart, creative and developmental city’. It will be guided by the Growth and Development Strategy (GDS) 2025 for the next 20 years. The GDS 2025 now puts Ekurhuleni in a much stronger position to deal with important social, economic and physical development challenges. The GDS will assist the Metro in deploying scarce resources ‘in a more focused and coordinated manner’. This will strengthen the service delivery capabilities of the municipality.
In order to continue improvements, all new plans and processes must be sustainable. According to the GDS, ‘sustainability is key to the long-term improvement of the quality of life of all our citizens.’ A press release has revealed that “this can only happen if the municipality has a clear understanding of what needs to be done.” The GDS is “the vehicle that will ensure compliance with this developmental requirement. The alignment of the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) with the Growth and Development Strategy 2025 is the next important step in ensuring the implementation of the Growth and Development Strategy 2025, a process that has already started. Ekurhuleni is looking forward to a continued partnership with our key external role-players in this regard.”
The future of the city looks more promising than ever before. The new growth and development strategy is being executed under a highly experienced team of people, who aim to oversee and manage the municipality. Mr Nkosi said that “deliberate efforts” were underway to “uplift and upgrade” deprived areas through projects such as, inter alia, the Inner-City Housing Project in Germiston, alongside other similar initiatives in the hubs of Ekurhuleni’s various urban areas. He said:
“Various projects have been initiated to address poverty and access for all to basic services in the region. Initiatives such as agri-farms and urban agriculture are spearheading efforts to put an end to poverty, unemployment and malnutrition in all areas within Ekurhuleni.”
The next 20 years will hopefully bring safety, prosperity, autonomy and success to the Municipality of Ekurhuleni.