Durban – eThekwini Municipality mayor Mxolisi Kaunda assured business leaders on Wednesday that the upcoming African National Congress (ANC) conference to select a new leader for the eThekwini region would “come and go”, but he would be around for the foreseeable future.
Kaunda was parachuted into the position in September after KwaZulu-Natal ANC leadership took the unprecedented step of removing mayor Zandile Gumede after she was arrested and charged on a raft of serious graft charges in May.
The ANC blamed Gumede for the city’s poor economic performance and its slide in audit outcomes. Gumede was the ANC eThekwini regional chairperson until it was disbanded earlier this year.
However, Gumede is campaigning to be re-elected to the position, with her supporters hoping it will allow her to mount a challenge to be nominated as the city mayor, possibly by the 2021 local elections.
“We are approaching our regional conference, which is coming around early next year; we can give you an assurance that the conference will come and go but the leadership in the city will still be stable.
"There will be no after effects after the conference. We are certain we are here to do business. We are not here to pursue our own narrow interests,” Kaunda said.
He was speaking at a stakeholder engagement with businesses at the Greyville Racecourse in Durban, themed 'City Means Business'.
The core discussion was inner-city regeneration, with a specific focus on the city’s Point Precinct along Mahatma Gandhi Road (formerly Point Road).
The area has decayed significantly in recent decades and is known for dilapidated buildings, high levels of substance abuse, prostitution, homelessness and general lawlessness.
However, it is also prime real estate where the city built its multi-million rand uShaka Marine World water park and aquarium. The area is also close to the port and the eight kilometer beach promenade, stretching from the Umgeni River mouth to the Durban harbour entrance.
The last stretch to the harbour cost R370-million and was opened two weeks ago.
Kaunda said the promenade was a catalyst for development, with developers committing R3.5-billion to a 29-storey residential block, hotel and mall in the Point Precinct.
“The inner city including secondary CBDs such as Isipingo, Amanzimtoti, Pinetown and Verulam are key economic assets of our municipality as they are well located and offer unique opportunities, connectivity and access to community services.
“However, the city is unable to derive maximum economic benefits from these areas because they are in a state of decline due to a lack of cooperation among all stakeholders and law enforcement. That is one of the realities.
“If we want to change and turn the tide, we need to enforce our by-laws because they are there to be enforced and we need to support each other.
“Another contributing factor is the deterioration and steady decline in the property rates and the relocation of businesses and middle-income residents. The city has developed an inner-city regeneration plan in response to this,” Kaunda said.
The plan included a strong emphasis on cleaning, maintenance, dealing with bad buildings, attracting mixed income and mixed use housing development and finding solutions to homelessness, enforcement of bylaws as well as stakeholder engagement.
Kaunda said dilapidated buildings were a major challenge in attracting investment into the inner city, and of the 80 identified, 35 were in the Point Precinct.
Of these, 75% were privately owned. Kaunda said while the owners were “excited” about the push to change the area, several could not be found. He said most of the buildings owned by government would be handed over to the municipality.