Langeberg Municipality: Delivering on a pledge for stability and sustainability

Located in the scenic Cape Winelands District of the Western Province, Langeberg Municipality enjoys the luxury of reaping reward from the fruits of the land, whilst maintaining a balance as a modern establishment that has to deal with the social and economic challenges of the 21st century.

The Constitution of 1996 required that a municipality “must structure and manage its administration and budgeting and planning processes to give priority to the basic needs of the community and to promote the social and economic development of the community”.

The boundaries of the newly established municipality now include a large area characterised by very different features. Five former municipalities – that of Ashton, Bonnievale, McGregor, Montagu and Robertson have all merged into one and are now known as the Langeberg Municipality.

langeberg-municipalityThe Langeberg Municipal Council is the ultimate political decision-making body of the municipality. Ward councillors are the major link between the municipal government and the residents. The Executive Mayor of the Langeberg takes overall strategic and political responsibility for the city, while the Municipal Manager heads the city’s administration. The heads of departments and officials are responsible for physically implementing policy.

The Municipality’s vision is: “To create a stable living environment and sustainable living conditions for all citizens,” and its mission is to accomplish this “By providing cost effective quality services to the Citizens, exercise good leadership, ensuring sound governance and financial management.”

Over time Langeberg has established the following strategic objectives, which are described in order of priority:

Sustainable Integrated Human Settlements; Sustainable Civil Engineering Infrastructure Services; Energy efficiency for a sustainable future; Provision of a safe and efficient road network; Promotion of public safety; Provision of a clean environment; Social Community Development; Growth and Economic Development; Sound Financial Management; Institutional Development and Corporate Governance; and Good Governance.

The Municipality of Langeberg has initiated its own Integrated Development Plan – defined by The Municipal Systems Act as “a single, inclusive and strategic plan for the development of the municipality”.

The towns that Langeberg is comprised of were all established in the 19th Century, with agriculture and the arrival of the rail road playing significant roles in the evolution of the region.

Agriculture is still an important aspect of life in this part of South Africa and because of the area’s relatively low rainfall, there is intensive irrigation. About 25 kilometres of irrigation canals, leading from the Breede River, carry water that is pumped by electricity as far as Montagu. Robertson is South Africa’s first irrigation district.

Although the rural area is in extent much larger than the urban areas, the majority of the population reside in urban areas. As the agriculture sector is currently experiencing economic difficulties, it is envisaged that more people will move to the urban areas to seek employment. The spatial implication of this is that the residential need in the towns will increase with subsequent pressure on resources such as water and energy.

Land needs to be identified for small-scale farmers. The area is characterised by low rainfall and therefore water is a fairly scarce commodity. Currently, rural and urban uses compete for this commodity.

The Keisie is currently a major fruit-producing valley. However, the rural community is amongst the poorest in the region. Another challenge for the valley is sufficient water supplies to support any further development.

Because the economy of the area depends largely on agriculture people are subject to seasonal income. Living standards are lowered to a large extent during the off-season.

Problems within agriculture, such as the closure of production plants and factories, as well as surpluses in the wine industry contribute to the poverty situation. The region’s potential for tourism is well known and recent studies have highlighted various options for development in this regard. It forms part of the well-known Route 62.

Unemployment remains a challenge and in November 2014, the Langeberg Municipality LED department hosted a Youth Development & Intergovernmental Information Session for 115 youth from the Langeberg area.

The workshop was in partnership with the NDYA, National Youth Service, National Department of Public Works, Youth Chamber of Commerce and Industry and Robertson ABSA that presented on the day.

The main purpose of the information session was to bring youth, youth owned businesses and organisation whose mandate it is to develop youth entrepreneurs together to create a platform for local youth to access the services provided by these organisations. This is the Municipality’s endeavour to curb unemployment by mainstreaming youth businesses into the local economy.

After all the presentations the youth could go for one on ones with the organisations for consultations and it was agreed that the Led department will be the link between the youth and these organisations and should the numbers justify these departments pledged to come back should their services be needed.

This concept of course falls very much within the Municipality’s ambitions, as outlined by Mayor Alderman Diana Gagiano, in Langeberg’s 2014/15 Annual Report:

“Placing our people firmly at the centre of development, it is our vision to create a stable living environment and sustainable living conditions for all citizens – through good leadership, sound governance and financial management and the provision of cost effective, quality services.

 

“Besides the delivery of basic services and sustaining the financial stability of the municipality, the 2014/2015 financial year saw a focussed direction towards implementing interventions promoting organisational health. Strategy implementation, performance monitoring and embedding a culture of risk management was therefore high on our development agenda – as it provided a means through which we could ensure achieving the objectives of the 2014/2015 Integrated Development Plan (IDP).

 

“Key service delivery successes for the year include achieving the objective to improve service delivery in essential, basic services by providing refuse removal, access to water and sanitation, clean drinking water and provision of electricity to more households as well as reaching our committed target to provide for indigent households.

 

“The biggest service delivery challenge to overcome was to address the huge, inherited housing backlog and to provide for the backlog in the upgrading and/or maintenance of streets and roads.

“The 2014/2015 focus to get communities involved in the affairs of the municipality mainly centred on implementation of the Public Participation Policy.”

 

“Initiatives committed to improve service delivery over the next few years include addressing some of the challenges that hamper the eradication of current service backlogs. Approval and implementation of the proposed Revised Spatial Development Framework will as such provide the scope for informed development zoning, the provision of more housing and the realisation of other job creation developments in the area.

“The Langeberg Municipality initiated various partnerships with its communities to improve service delivery and community engagement in decision making:

“The Langeberg Substance and alcohol Abuse Group assists with the implementation of social development interventions.

“The Breede River Winelands Rural Development Association, a well-rooted NPO and an established Section 21 Company, is a partnership between the Langeberg Municipality, farm workers, farmers and wine cellars, assisting with rural development issues and challenges.

“The Local Economic Development Partnership, a partnership between key stakeholders in the private sector and the Langeberg Municipality, assists with the implementation of Local Economic Development in a practical way.

“In conclusion, the 2014/15 financial year can be summed up as one of hard earned successes, but also one that posed many challenges, some of which we have to carry forward to the 2015/2016 financial year to seek and find solutions for.

“The social challenges experienced in our area, however call for a more holistic effort and approach. The 2015/2016 year will see a stronger and targeted municipal focus on this problem. We therefore call on everyone residing in the Langeberg area to work together in finding solutions to also improve the health and strength of our communities in a meaningful way.

“Nearing the end of this governing term, we are proud of our accomplishments. We have laid strong foundation of clear, accountable actions and sound governance, setting the Langeberg Municipality on course for sustained service delivery, local growth and accessible development. Our aim, to touch the lives of all citizens living in the Langeberg municipal area, is clearly displayed in this Annual Report which is a testimony of our commitment to put ‘our people at the centre of development’,” she commented.