Careful, Zumaville planners: Msholozi is watching you

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It's not going to be easy to plan Zumaville, the new town due to be developed just 3.2km away from President Jacob Zuma's homestead in rural KwaZulu-Natal, potential bidders for the planning contract were told on Friday. And the pressure will be on.

"I'll warn you, you'll have the president watching you," project manager for the department of rural development and land reform Ross Hoole told a tender meeting in Pietermartizburg. "He's as excited as anyone else."

Though officially named the Umlalazi-Nkandla Smart Growth Centre, government departments have started referring to the project as either a town or a village. If completed, it will be the first new town to be developed since at least 1994.

Potential bidders had gone to the compulsory clarification meeting for details on what is likely to be a multimillion-rand tender to further develop the idea for Zumaville, to the point where construction can begin. What some hadn't expected was the lesson in rural politics that came with it.

The group was told that normal town-planning language had been adjusted for the project, because people in tribal lands tended to feel disempowered if their chiefs no longer had the ultimate say on the dispensation of land. 

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'Opening up the way'
Local municipalities would be too cash-strapped to contribute their part to the planning process, they heard, and various other role-players in the area would likely be touchy about the big project. And then there will be all the watching eyes.

"This is the very first one of these driven by the president of South Africa, so you'll be opening up the way," Hoole told the group.

The department of rural development last week said it had set aside R5-million for the planning and management of construction, and another R6-million was earmarked for a computer centre for young people on the site of Zumaville. 

But although the entire project will cost the government at least R1-billion, by its own estimation, and is due to be completed within four years, a construction budget had not yet been allocated.

A multi-disciplinary team of town planners, engineers and technicians will have three months to determine if Zumaville is a practical proposition. 

Although R2.2-million has already been spent on a vision for the new town, planners will be responsible for an economic evaluation of each component, on top of identifying potential engineering pitfalls. "We are asking for you to do the research and come up with truth," Hoole told the group.

Final version
Planners will have three months to complete their work, and another seven months to shepherd the final version through the various approvals required. In the meanwhile, however, a community hall is to be constructed regardless, as is the centre to provide young people with internet access and computer training.

The department of rural development has also budgeted R7.5-million to erect 110km of fencing around the Nkandla area. Other projects in the area include planting citrus groves, establishing piggeries and poultry farms, and planting potatoes and groundnuts. 

It is anticipated that the new town will serve as a processing centre for the product of those agricultural projects. But the biggest single element of the 52 182 square metres of buildings envisaged will be a 24-clasroom school, with laboratories, art rooms, and a substantial library.

The plan also includes 137 new housing units, a recycling centre, office blocks and shopping centres.

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Phillip De Wet
Guest Author

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