eThekwini Municipality: Blending the mix of past and present for a thriving, modern city

Blending the past with the fast-pace and technology of a thriving modern city is no easy matter. Adding in the demands for infrastructure development, eThekwini Municipality has accomplished much from its ‘2010 and Beyond’ programme.

leadImage_leadimageWith beautiful countryside, battlefields and rich history, along with the stunning coastline, Durban has become a popular tourist spot. Tourism is certainly one of the region’s biggest revenue drivers, but the municipality has also worked hard to develop international trade links through the multi-billion rand Dube Tradeport and the Durban International Convention Centre, whilst sporting arenas have attracted other visitors to this vibrant area.

Indeed, the corporate website states: “The threads that are woven into this City are integral to the rich historical of South Africa, and contribute to the cultural diversity and harmony that defines life in eThekwini.”

EThekwini Municipality is a Category A municipality found in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal. The area is topographically hilly, with many gorges and ravines, and almost no true coastal plain. Durban has a turbulent history dating from ivory hunters in the 1820s and their conflict with the local Zulu monarchs. Today, Durban is the largest city within the province and the third largest in the country and is home to roughly 3.5 million people.

“eThekwini is the largest City in this province and the third largest city in the country. It is a sophisticated cosmopolitan city of over 3 442 398 people (as per 2011 Census). It is known as the home of Africa’s best-managed, busiest port and is also a major centre of tourism because of the city’s warm subtropical climate and extensive beaches.

“The province has the largest number of battlefields. The world-class Durban Chief Albert Luthuli International Convention Centre (ICC) has hosted a historic line-up of events including conferences of a global scale,” the website describes.

The region’s hospitality industry consists of many fine hotels, nightspots, shopping malls, ethnic attractions, traditional villages, craft markets, sparkling dams and big-game parks, such as, Mitchell Park where a 100 year old Admiral tortoise is kept.

By 2030 eThekwini Municipality aims to enjoy the reputation of being Africa’s most caring and liveable City, where all citizens live in harmony.

“Our core values are: sustainability; an economically successful city; a caring city; a smart city; poverty reduction and to operate a democratic and equal city,” states the website.

To achieve those goals, eThekwini has embarked on a number of initiatives through its Economic Development Projects Department, located in the eThekwini Economic Development and the Investment Promotion Unit, which promotes local economic development along economic corridors and in economic nodes in order to achieve economic growth and job creation.

“The reason for utilising the above referenced approach, is that the City is in a position to maximize the development potential of existing and proposed infrastructure along the economic corridors identified in the Integrated Development Plan,” the eThekwini website explains.

“Some of the projects that have been finalized as a result of this approach are: the Isipingo Town Centre Regeneration; Verulam Town Centre Regeneration; Tongaat Town Centre Regeneration; Umlazi V-section node including Umlazi Mega City; the KwaMashu Town Centre development; Bridge City development and the Cato Manor node.”

As with all cities and/or institutions in South Africa, eThekwini has had to change fundamentally in order to accommodate and assimilate itself within the context of the new South Africa, and provide services to its residents.

The City administration is led by the City Manager, supported by an Executive Management Team.

The City spends billions of Rands yearly in providing services for its residents, and investing in its Municipal Infrastructure Investment Framework (MIIF). Its functions, service delivery and growth are not possible without effective revenue collection and expenditure, excellent financial management and reporting, and viable and sustainable budgeting.

eThekwini Municipality is funded by public money, and is therefore expected to exercise the highest levels of corporate governance.

The City’s service delivery sectors are divided into 8 Administrative Clusters, each with focused and clear roles and responsibilities. They provide organisational support, services and infrastructure to residents across eThekwini. Each is responsible for its own planning and budget in accordance with the City’s overall plan.

As with other municipalities within the modern South Africa, the concept of partnership forms an increasingly significant backbone to economic development.

In July 2015, it was announced that the eThekwini Municipality had signed a 5 year agreement with Nedbank to provide banking services from October 1.

City Manager Sbu Sithole said, “Every 5 years we change banks if needed and for the first time in history we are banking with Nedbank. They offered us competitive bids and we have agreed to bank with them.

City Treasurer Krish Kumar said the city was looking forward to working with the bank.

“We were with Standard Bank for many years and then we changed to First National Bank. We went back to Standard Bank and now we are with Nedbank,” said Kumar.

After signing the agreement Nedbank CEO Mike Brown said, “We are very proud to be doing transaction banking for this Metro because we know you have a budget in excess of over R30 billion. Transactional banking is at the heart of your operations and we promise to uphold services delivery.”

Commenting on the objectives of the area, James Nxumalo, Executive Mayor said in the Durban guide ‘Return to Paradise and its People’:

“The face of Durban has changed dramatically over the past few years due to the massive investments in infrastructure upgrade that were kick-started ahead of the 2010 Fifa World Cup(TM).

“Our transport system is undergoing continuous improvements and access into and out of the city has improved with the construction of fly-over bridges and dedicated lanes for public transport vehicles. We have the brand new King Shaka International Airport, located in one of the most beautiful landscapes of any airport in the world, and part of the expansive Dube Tradeport project which encourages export trade.

“Areas outside of central Durban are also receiving attention, with construction taking place at an accelerated pace from Hammersdale to Inanda, Umhlanga and Amanzimtoti. Development of formerly black townships is also progressing in order to bring formerly disadvantaged citizens in to the mainstream of economic activity in eThekwini. These plans are part of the City’s 2010 and beyond Strategy.

“We are a diverse African city that is focused on citywide investments, growing our economy and creating a better quality of life. In Durban we play hard and we work hard. It’s not a coincidence that we attract so many local and international tourists on a daily basis. We are a growing urban setting, rich in diversity, cultural amenities and outdoor recreational opportunities.”