Cape Winelands District Municipality: Eyeing up the future

Across South Africa, municipalities have spent the past few years formulating plans to create jobs, prosperity and to alleviate poverty. Much of the work involves investing in infrastructure and attracting business to previously underutilised areas.

cwd_logoAt Cape Winelands District Municipality, the challenge is no less. The Administration is situated in close proximity to Cape Town with the towns of Stellenbosch and Paarl less than 30 minutes drive from Cape Town International Airport and Worcester only 60 minutes drive away.

Alderman De Bruyn was elected as the Executive Mayor of the municipality in May 2011. Locally born Neels (C.A.) de Bruyn, has served on many Boards and Institutes and has a passion for welfare and the plight of the poor. He is very people-orientated person and has been involved in local government for over 20 years.

Located in the Western Cape, the Cape Winelands District Municipality is one of 51 district municipalities in South Africa and is situated next to the Cape Metropolitan area, with a geographical spread of 22,309 square kilometres.

The district is landlocked and includes five local municipalities, namely Drakenstein, Stellenbosch, Witzenberg, Breede Valley and Langeberg (formally known as Breede River/Winelands) and a District Management Area.

Of course the region is famed for its extensive range of vineyards and exquisite wines, making it a popular tourist attraction. Aside from wine tasting, visitors can indulge in strawberry picking, or savour the area’s abundance of local cheeses and olives.

Other popular activities include donkey and horse-and-carriage rides through the vineyards, picnics next to a dam, the local cheetah outreach programme, which allows visitors to interact with the fastest big cats, plus an array of restaurants, gift shops, art galleries, amphitheatres, spa and wellness centres, nature and game reserves.

The picture of serenity is of course a look at the region on one level. Tourism certainly plays a key role in generating income for CWDM, much needed revenue that the local government’s 40 councillors are responsible for allocating to a wide number of projects.

Executive Mayor De Bruyn, commenting on CWDM’s 2012/13 – 2016/17 Integrated Development Plan (IDP), described it as a “momentous event and milestone. It is a milestone because this release doesn’t mean, in any way, that we have arrived at our destination and reached the end of the road.”

Indeed the municipality is acutely aware of the ongoing challenges that need to be met head-on to attain the district’s vision that “All structures of the Cape Winelands co-operate together towards effective, efficient and economically sustainable development.

The third generation IDP has been devised following ten years of observation and has considered the Western Cape Government’s vision of an “Open Opportunity Society For All.”

Yet whilst tourism remains an important factor in the region’s economy, the plan also acknowledges the need to diversify income sources, particularly given the current economic downturn around the globe, as Mike Mgajo, Municipal Manager outlined:

Our plan aims to deliver: focused planning guided by proper analysis of our external and internal environment; an organisational structure that enables optimal utilization of human resources; a skilled, qualified, disciplined and motivated work force; sensible spending of financial resources to ensure maximum output with minimum cost; and a governance structure that supports the functioning of the organisation and enables the achievement of our strategic objectives.

This Integrated Development Plan is our key guiding document in our endeavours to improve the economy of our region by creating an environment conducive for attracting investments, including Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), and allocating resources in identified areas in order to optimise economic growth and reduce poverty and unemployment levels.

Mindful of the rather dull economic environments in some of the key parts of the world, important sources of tourism and FDI for our own economy we, in the Cape Winelands District Municipality, remain determined to continue seeking new sources of investment and new avenues of intervention to help us minimise possible effects of negative trends elsewhere.

Amongst the many important issues that need addressing is that of water. This increasingly precious resource is under threat with over consumption during the dry mid-summer having a negative impact on rivers. Together with the pollution of water sources in some areas, this problem has a detrimental effect on the natural environment, while the municipality also alleges that water quality is also negatively affected by farming activities, informal settlements, leaching from land-fill sites and unsuitable sewage removal systems that lead to river pollution.

According to the Administration, the health of ecosystem services in the Cape Winelands District is deteriorating gradually. Without the necessary interventions, this will lead to a crisis in the ability of these ecosystem services to support the sustainable economic development and improved quality of life that the Municipality strives for in its area of jurisdiction. Human activity in the Cape Winelands District Area is imposing pressures on the continued ability of the ecosystem to deliver ecosystem services into the future.

The Administration has identified a number of strategic objectives that will help to achieve its goals to enhance life and promote prosperity for the whole community.

The first of these is to ensure the health and safety of communities in the Cape Winelands through the proactive prevention, mitigation, identification and management of environmental health, fire and disaster risks.

The second strives to facilitate sustainable economic empowerment of all communities within the Cape Winelands District through economic, environmental and social infrastructure investment, poverty alleviation, job creation and skills development.

A number of initiatives have been identified to help achieve this, including an Entrepreneurial Seed Funding, Small Business Training and a Mentorship Programme. An Environmental Programme will include improvements to the local river and development of the Cape Winelands Biosphere Reserve. Skills development and capacity building within the district will aim to incorporate LED design to give consideration to the environment.

The third strategic objective is to support and ensure the development and implementation of infrastructural services such as bulk-and internal services, functional road network and public transport services that contribute to Integrated Human Settlements in the Cape Winelands. This particular task is of course common across South Africa and the district has prioritised a number of initiatives including the construction of shelters, sidewalks and embayments for improved road safety, a programme to build bathrooms to existing houses for the elderly and disabled and the upgrading of rural roads from gravel to tarred surfaces.

Another common plight being addressed by administrations across the country is the need to provide empowerment for the poorest and most vulnerable members of society. At Cape Winelands this includes providing support interventions that will focus on these groups that typically comprise of disabled elderly women and youth impoverished households and those affected by HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis and FAS. This objective will also involve the creation of skills development opportunities for young women and disabled farm workers, while another initiative will deliver early childhood development support and capacity building.

If CWDM’s plan casts a steely eye on the future, perhaps its best observation relates to the power of learning: “Education in the 21 century is perhaps the single most important tool for creating competitiveness in the economy. It is increasingly being seen as the engine to the economy and not just simply an input. Economies are increasingly being driven by knowledge and innovation and this requires skilled people.”

It is hoped that the strategic objectives in place will go a long way to fulfilling Cape Wineland’s ambitions to build a strong platform for sustainable socio-economic development.