A town torn in two

Published Jul 13, 2014


Durban - A group of ratepayers in KwaZulu-Natal want their own town, own flag and to be excluded from the Mtubatuba Municipality.

The decision by the St Lucia Ratepayers’ Association from the tourist town has split the community along racial lines.

St Lucia’s 500 residents currently fall under the Mtubatuba Municipality – a local government entity that has been under provincial administration for three years due to financial mismanagement and maladministration.

But ratepayers have had enough and now want greater autonomy. They are in the process of getting a mandate from their members. They’re also in the process of drawing up their own flag.

Ratepayers association chairman Rudi Redinger said: “St Lucia is in the heart of a World Heritage Site and provides the major accommodation component for visitors to the iSimangaliso Wetland Park.

“In order to preserve it as a preferred eco-destination, the town has to be maintained with all services fully functional to meet tourists’ expectations. The ratepayers’ association’s objective is to ensure this happens with clean municipal governance and transparent accounting for collective rate contributions.

“Despite provincial administration intervention that has been in place for over three years, little progress has been made with both the quality of service delivery, management competence and co-operation from the municipality.

“As with many ratepayers in South Africa, we have reached the limit of our patience, being ignored in our efforts to co-operate with the municipality and to achieve a satisfactory level of service delivery and good governance.”

He added: “We have had problems with the municipality for about six years now… We want transparency from local government. There is no racism around here – none.”

However, Chief Almond Sithole of the Dukuduku Forest warned that such a move would increase racial tension.

“There is them, the white people, and there is us, the black people. This is my home, but we are still fighting for equality from residents and even holidaymakers,” he said.

Sithole said that, 20 years into democracy, very little had changed. “They can go ahead and try to make this place independent. Apartheid is still real here so I don’t know what more they expect. We are confident the government will help us.”

This is not the first time St Lucia has made headlines:

* In 1997 a security boom gate was erected at the entrance to the town. Ratepayers said it was an anti-crime initiative, while others believed it was designed to keep black people out. Former cabinet minister Kader Asmal called it “The Berlin Wall”. Two years later it was removed after then KZN MEC for transport Sbu Ndebele deemed it to be illegal.

* In 2000, the South African Human Rights Commission agreed to investigate alleged racism in the town after a report of complaints was received by the KZN Department of Economic Affairs and Tourism.

* In 2001, Nolan Jewlal claimed he was partying with friends at the local hotel when he asked a white woman to dance with him, invoking the anger of two white men who allegedly beat him unconscious and assaulted his friend for trying to intervene.

Lennox Mabaso, spokesman for MEC of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs Nomusa Dube-Ncube, said they had not been informed of the residents’ concerns.

“If the reasons they are advancing are that the municipality is under administration, this is not enough to break away from Mtubatuba. Having an administrator means a certain sphere of government intervened where things were not functioning well,” he said.

“We will consider their proposition when it reaches us, but it would sound like an over-reaction.”

Ndabezinhle Sibiya, the spokesman for Premier Senzo Mchunu, was not aware of plans to secede from the Mtubatuba Municipality.

“The premier, in liaison with Minister of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Pravin Gordhan, is establishing a good governance support team on local government to intervene in situations like these. We want to avoid situations where ratepayers feel they are not part of the local government system. Having said that, I can confirm that no formal correspondence has occurred between St Lucia and the premier,” said Sibiya. – Additional reporting by Nathi Olifant

Sunday Tribune

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