eThekwini Municipality: Achieving the Vision

The statement is ambitious the plans are bold but the eThekwini Municipality has laid down a structure that it confidently predicts will make Durban Africa’s most liveable city, where all citizens live in harmony by 2030.

eThekwini has a lot to live up to by its own decree but when one casts a closer eye on developments the reality is not such a far flung dream. The Municipality’s vision will be achieved through a combination of economic growth and meeting people’s needs to enhance the quality of life through equal opportunities, job creation and superior living conditions in a vibrant environment.

Undoubtedly the region’s rich history helps enormously and has been an issue that the administration can play on for tourism.

eThekwini1eThekwini Municipality is a Category A municipality located in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal. Durban’s turbulent history dates back to the ivory hunters of the 1820s and their conflict with the local Zulu monarchs.

The city offers warm weather all year round, historic battlefield sites nearby and a variety of tourist attractions like KZN Wildlife and the uShaka Marine World and without doubt tourism contributes enormously to the local economy.

Indeed during the 2010 Fifa World Cup™ Durban performed extremely well compared to other provinces, in both match and fan park attendance, as a result of excellent weather.

The Municipality has worked hard both to develop and market its image and events like the two-day Top Gear Festival which took place in June, enhance the region. Indeed it is estimated that the event injected over R60 million into the local economy and led Deputy Mayor Cllr Nomvuzo Shabalala to say, “We worked together with the Top Gear team and the Province to ensure that people got their money’s worth at the show. This was one of the proudest moments for us in eThekwini, where months of planning and hard work finally came to fruition. Where our streets turned into super racing circuit; and the bowl of the iconic Moses Mabhida Stadium became a theatre for car racing enthusiasts.”

Further endorsement came from that most venerable critic Top Gear’s own Jeremy Clarkson who fully embraced the atmosphere and location while the venue played host to several matches during the Fifa World Cup™ and will also entertain Manchester United during their tour of South Africa later this month.

The Moses Mabhida Stadium is one of many modern entities that Durban boasts and from a business perspective perhaps the work eThekwini invested into The International Convention Centre is its most important effort to date.

Construction began in February 1994 on ICC, which has become one of the most advanced conference facilities in the world. Flexibility and versatility are key factors in the design of this state-of-the-art technology-driven centre which is fully air-conditioned and includes three convention halls that are interlinked but separate. Moveable walls allow for a number of different venue configurations. Alternatively the halls can be opened up to form one large venue with seating for 5,000 delegates or 7,000 metres squared of column free floor space.

eThekwini’s vision also embraces the need to improve services and to reduce poverty across the region. Across the Continent there is a perception that the most vulnerable members of society will be most affected by climate change and in 2004 eThekwini Municipality responded to this challenge with the initiation of its Municipal Climate Protection Programme (MCPP).

The project has assessed the local impacts of climate change and put together a series of proposed responses. Consequently a number of initiatives have been started to address climate change including the development of reforestation projects, pilot green roofs, sea level rise modelling and community adaptation plans.

The work also included hosting a carbon neutral 2010 FIFA World Cup™ in Durban and the creation of a Climate Protection Branch within the Environmental Planning and Climate Protection Department.

Durban was the only host city to commit to hosting an entirely carbon neutral 2010 FIFA Soccer World Cup™ event. As a result the Greening Durban 2010 Programme included carbon neutrality as one of its key objectives.

In order to meet the carbon neutrality challenge, a series of key interventions were undertaken including a green review of the stadia; waste, water and energy reduction projects, the Buffelsdraai Community Reforestation Project, biogas to electricity and hydropower offset projects.

The environmental management function of the municipality was established in 1994. The intervening years have been full of challenge and change. The department has grown from a single staff member to a fully-fledged department with a current staff complement of 21.

eThekwini BeachOver the same period South Africa’s environmental legislation has increased and changed causing further challenges and opportunities. In response to these changing circumstances, the department’s role has also evolved; previously known as the ‘Environmental Management Department’ (EMD), the original sustainable development mandate of the department (effective from 1994-2002) has now been mainstreamed through the city-wide Integrated Development Planning (IDP) process.

This means that sustainable development became the core business of every municipal official and department, not just of the EMD.

This in turn allowed the department to refocus its activities (2002 onwards) on a more specialised area of environmental management – the planning and protection of the city’s Biodiversity.

eThekwini2One of the initiatives Durban has undertaken has been its green roof drive. Under climate change it is foreseen that urban areas will get hotter with Durban susceptible to flooding from intense and sudden rain bursts. Green roofs can reduce building temperatures and provide storm water run-off when designed effectively, while also reducing the need for air conditioning which of course uses electricity.

The City spends billions of Rands each year on public services which are provided from public money. Sustainability has become a very hot “buzz word” in recent years and budgeting takes into account efficiency at all levels within the Municipal Infrastructure Framework (MIF).

Earlier this year the new City Manager of eThekwini Municipality Sibusiso Sithole promised to tighten all oversight structures within the Municipality when he stated: “The Supply Chain Management needs to be looked at along with the use of section 36. We must put internal controls and look at the tendering system. We should also scrutinise the bid committees and make sure that they are made up of people who are ethical and have the interest of the City at heart.”

With these words in mind eThekwini Municipality recently announced it had taken delivery of 44 new buses as part of its efforts to improve public transportation. The buses are part of the 124 new ones ordered by the Municipality to replace the present ageing fleet. This will go down well with bus commuters who often experience bus breakdowns on their way home or to work. The new buses were officially received by the Deputy Mayor, Cllr Nomvuzo Shabalala at a launch held at the Umhlanga Coastlands Hotel. “The launch was historical in the Municipality’s endeavours of being on par with the rest of global Cities in all sectors of society including the transport system.

Meanwhile infrastructure improvements have seen ongoing rehabilitation work on the Magwaza Maphalala Road (Gale Street) in the central business district. The Roads Provision Department hopes the work will be completed by the end of the month.

With such a broad remit and so many different challenges, it is reassuring to learn that eThekwini is economically stable and well placed to fulfil its dream vision.