Right of Reply: eThekwini Municipality responds to Business Report opinion piece

Rickshaws along Durban’s beaches. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo / African News Agency (ANA)

Rickshaws along Durban’s beaches. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo / African News Agency (ANA)

Published Oct 4, 2023


By Councillor Nkosenhle Madlala

We have noted with disappointment that Siphelele Dludla has jumped on the ‘Bash Durban’ bandwagon.

We have also noted that like many other Durban bashers, he has no regard for fact or research, the basic tools of good journalism. While his article titled Durban can wave tourism goodbye if it doesn’t get its act together fast is written as an opinion piece, this does not absolve him of the responsibility to base it on facts, rather than simple regurgitation of what has been said before by those leading the ‘Bash Durban’ campaign.

Let us assist you him some facts, something he was too pre-occupied to check.

He claims that Durban has “vanished right in front of our eyes” and he claims this during one of the busiest weekends that Durban has had this year. From a tourist perspective, the Heritage Day long weekend was almost as busy as our Easter weekend and the Durban July weekend. Even without looking at the figures, anyone who was on the N3 on September 22 would have seen the amount of traffic that was headed to Durban, a city that Siphelele claims has “vanished”.

Estimates indicate that there was over 65% occupancy at hotels. The direct spend expected in eThekwini is R120 million with a projected contribution of R300 million to the GDP and a contribution of 1 300 jobs. Interestingly, the highest number of visitors were from Gauteng, Siphelele’s adopted home province. Importantly, we also had visitors from Germany, Belgium, China, India, Madagascar, Cameroon, Nigeria, Ghana, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, and Ethiopia. Most of these visitors were in town to attend South Africa’s premier business exhibition, the Durban Business Fair and Africa’s leading fashion event, the Durban Fashion Fair. Both events are owned and run by eThekwini Municipality and this year they attracted more than 20,000 visitors to a city that Siphelele claims has vanished.

During this same weekend, Durban was announced as the host of the MTN8 Final on 7 October at the iconic Moses Mabhida Stadium, further proof that Durban is alive and kicking.

We continue to successfully host other major events in the City, such as the Africa Tourism Indaba, the Durban July, and many international conferences and sports events, confounding haters and sceptics alike. Just last week we were announced as the 2025 host of the World Water Conference. In November we are hosting the 13th World Congress of The World Society for Paediatric Infectious Diseases. The world believes in us and what we have to offer, far more than someone like Siphelele who grew up right here does.

His reference to “the rise of crime and grime and decay of infrastructure” could have been about any city in any country in the world. Crime and urban decay is an unfortunate phenomenon that all big cities face. Surely he has witnessed the same thing in Joburg and in Cape Town? Or are his eyes open to this only when he is in Durban? In eThekwini the problem is compounded by the fact that we are the only Metro in KwaZulu-Natal, and so rapid migration of people to the Metro impacts our infrastructure and its ability to cope.

One of the biggest lies in Siphelele’s article is that “there’s virtually no campaign to market the City as a tourism destination”. Again, the most basic research would have alerted him to the massive effort to market eThekwini locally and internationally. Without sharing the entire destination marketing programme, on 7 September we launched our Sizzling Summer Campaign, which is an extensive campaign to market the City to tourists. We suspect that the launch is part of the reason haters like Siphelele have come out of the woodwork to bash us and redirect tourists away from Durban to cities that he prefers. Since the launch, we have been running multiple activations showcasing the City’s hidden gems under the theme ‘My City My Heritage’. On 10 September we hosted a United Arab Emirates trade and media delegation to enable them to learn first-hand about destination Durban. The delegation was impressed about what we have to offer.

We have participated in several international marketing opportunities to keep Durban on the world map. On 11 to 15 September 2023, we participated in the South African Tourism, China and Japan Roadshow. On 11 to 20 September, we were part of Africa Showcase: North America. In November we will be participating in the World Tourism Market in London.

Local marketing initiatives are ongoing. For example, for the month of August we ran a destination promotion TV advert on eNCA.

We can’t believe he is still going on and on about Funworld. We thought journalists did not regurgitate stale stories. Funworld is not being “stripped bare in broad daylight” as he claims.

The owners are removing their equipment following THEIR decision to cancel the lease. This was Nic Steyn’s decision, not the municipality’s. We had intended to keep him there until we had finalised our procurement process around the redevelopment of the site, despite the fact that he was battling to pay his rental. We are releasing the site for redevelopment. Watch that space, we have no doubt you will be impressed by what will rise there.

The work being undertaken on the beachfront is not just about Funworld: Siphelele’s own colleagues have written extensively about what is being done to develop the beachfront precinct. Some of the developments include the closure of Funworld and Mini-town. These are set to make way for up-market developments which will include accommodation, restaurants, arts and crafts, kiosks for small businesses, retail spaces, a spa, and many others. Furthermore, upgrade of three popular restaurants is under way by new lessees.

Overall, the developments will elevate the beachfront even further, ensuring it remains a prime destination for residents and tourists to enjoy.

He lists several problems that he saw during your visit. What is strange is that he lists them as if they are unique to Durban. Theft of government infrastructure leading to poor lighting at night is a national phenomenon. Crime is a feature of all big cities. Even in overseas hotels one is advised to be cautious when out at night and to keep valuables out of sight, but Siphelele mentions the caution about not going to the shop at night as something unique to Durban. Why?

He makes reference to vandals and hijacked buildings, but he lives in Joburg, he know this problem all too well, yet here he is pontificating about it as if it is unique to Durban. We would like to draw his attention to a blog by the Borgen Project, which is an international non-profit organisation that aims to fight extreme poverty. In a blog titled Addressing homelessness in South Africa, they share interesting statistics about homelessness in Joburg and Cape Town. It is tragic, of course. All we are underlining is the fact that the challenge of homelessness and the social problems associated with it are not unique to us.

We are addressing the challenge aggressively. We go beyond providing shelters for the homeless. We rehabilitate them and place them in employment to help them rebuild their lives.

We concede one thing to Siphelele: the state of the Children’s Amusement Centre pool is an embarrassing own goal. However, we have already appointed a contractor to repair the pool and we expect to have it open in the first week of December.

The fact that he took one look at the ocean and concluded that it had prospects of high levels of E.coli is yet another example of his desperation to rubbish the City. The rest of the world measures E.coli levels in a laboratory, but not Siphelele. He measures it with the eye, the way cooks measure the amount of water needed to cook pap.

He says that the last time he booked in at South Beach was just before the COVID-19 pandemic and that a lot of things can change in three years. This is true. In those three years, eThekwini has had a pandemic, a destructive episode of civil unrest, and the most devasting flood in living memory. So yes, a lot has changed. That flood also has a lot to do with the state of our infrastructure. We are urgently repairing it and would love to take him around to see our infrastructure projects the next time he is in town. In just the past few weeks we have finished building the eShongweni Reservoir and Emona Reservoir, we have settled hundreds of people in beautiful homes in Nkanku Road in Isiphingo, and we have finished and re-opened the R102, a major access route into uMlazi which was extensively damaged during the floods.

He wonders what is occupying the leaders of the City. There is much indeed that is occupying them. Providing basic services such as clean, safe water free from cholera is one major activity occupying City leaders. Rebuilding our infrastructure and our economy is another one. Growing tourism is another. Providing health and housing is another.

Implementing massive catalytic projects to stimulate the economy and jobs is yet another.

Managing the City purse well and ensuring that we don’t owe bulk providers such as Eskom is another one.

We are also busy implementing our Energy Transformation Strategy. Our aggressive development for 400MW of new generation capacity from Independent Power Producers (IPPs) has already been approved by National Treasury, the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) and is currently with the Minister of Electricity in the Presidency for final approval. These approvals demonstrate that eThekwini remains the only metropolitan in the country with strong creditworthiness (currently rated A1+ and AA) and strong inhouse capacity to execute large scale infrastructure projects. These approvals reaffirm the announcement made by President Cyril Ramaphosa during the State of National Address of 2020, where he said, “municipalities in good financial standing will be allowed to procure their own power from IPPs.”

Our call for Request for Proposals (RFPs) is expected to be released onto the market in Q3 of the 2023/24 financial year. This will be the first Public Private Partnership (PPP) model for IPPs in South Africa. It will attract approximately R10 billion in private investment, create 8,000 jobs during construction, and mitigate against stage 4 load shedding in eThekwini.

In addition, this month the City has released two Requests for Information (RFIs) for Emergency Procurement Programme (EPP) and Hydrogen Supply Chain Infrastructure Programme (HSCIP). This will ultimately create an opportunity for local industries to sell their surplus electricity during peak hours and those with financial capability to set up new thermal peaking power plants.

Like many big cities in this country and around the world, eThekwini has its problems. We welcome any challenge on these, but that challenge must be legitimate and based on fact.

This singling out of eThekwini as if it has the worst problems of all cities and as if it is the only city with problems is tired, dishonest, and points to the continued use of journalists by politicians.

* Councillor Nkosenhle Madlala is a member of the eThekwini Municipality Executive Committee and Chairperson of the Governance and Human Capital Committee.

** The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the views of IOL or Independent Media.

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