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Pietermaritzburg is a ’collapsed city’

The Msunduzi Municipality is in a state of collapse but mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla said he was on the right track to turn around the fortunes of the ailing city. Picture : Motshwari Mofokeng /African News Agency (ANA)

The Msunduzi Municipality is in a state of collapse but mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla said he was on the right track to turn around the fortunes of the ailing city. Picture : Motshwari Mofokeng /African News Agency (ANA)

Published Feb 10, 2021

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Durban - THE Pietermaritzburg city centre CBD resembles a dump site, but Msunduzi Municipality mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla believes that he and his council were on the right track to turn around the ailing city’s fortunes.

This was after opposition parties and the business sector in the municipality labelled Pietermaritzburg a “collapsed city”.

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Yesterday, Thebolla admitted that challenges existed but said it was an exaggeration to say the city has collapsed.

“Governance issues politically and administratively have been identified as the cause of the council’s problems. Since I was inaugurated as mayor there is a difference in Msunduzi. Administratively, there were many vacant senior positions and those have since been filled. If there’s any vacant senior position, it is new. What is lacking now is to deal with the visible challenges like electricity, water and refuse removal,” he said.

Thebolla said these challenges were exacerbated by the rapid population growth with lack of infrastructure development.

“We have these challenges. It needs to be taken into consideration that Pietermaritzburg was established for a few certain groups so the infrastructure was to cater for those few. Now the city’s population growth stands between 2.5 and 3% annually. At this rate, more development is needed to cater for the rapidly growing population. This current financial year we have made infrastructure repair and development our second priority,” Thebolla said.

He said services were another area of concern, especially after many citizens took a knock since the first case of Covid-19 was identified in South Africa in March last year.

IFP Msunduzi council member Thinasonke Ntombela said the mayor was not being truthful in his comment about the state of the city.

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Ntombela said Thebolla might have a vision for the ailing municipality but “he lacked power to put the vision into motion”.

“If he spoke to the employees and managers in relevant departments, would the city be in such a sore state? It stinks, people are finding it difficult to move around. What are these Expanded Public Works Programme workers getting paid for? In town, it’s garbage all over the place and in Scottsville you find potholes everywhere. The situation is getting worse and we need an explanation in the Executive Committee meeting next week,” said Ntombela.

DA councillor Bill Lambert, who once ran a clothing shop in the CBD, recently told the Independent Media’s Investigations team that the state of Pietermaritzburg was an embodiment of the City’s service delivery collapse.

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Lambert had said things were fine under the first post-democracy, mayor Omar Latif, as well as his predecessors, Siphiwe Gwala and Hloni Zondi, but the rot started under Zanele Hlatshwayo, who was sacked following allegations of gross mismanagement, maladministration and corruption.

He said despite the answers to the problem being known, “nothing gets done about it”.

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