/ 11 October 2013

Driving the future of Mangaung

Driving The Future Of Mangaung

Situated at the centre of South Africa, Mangaung is the only metropolitan municipality in the Free State province.

It is made up of three main areas: Thaba Nchu, Botshabelo and Bloemfontein.

When I took over as executive mayor in 2011, as council we outlined a number of focus areas, and the common denominator was to stabilise the municipality and create a city that works for its citizens.

These areas of focus are stable institutions, improving finances, a clean and green environment, economic development, an integrated public transport network, facilitating rural development, the built environment and land development.

These eight priorities are underpinned by our desire to strive towards being a City at Work.

Guided by the constitutional imperative to "improve the quality of life of all citizens and free the potential of each person", we are buoyed by a common appreciation and deference by the majority of the people of South Africa to Vision 2030, and the development trajectory articulated in the national development plan.

Our city's close proximity and functional connection with the Sol Plaatjie municipality (Northern Cape), districts of Xhariep, Thabo Mofutsanyana and Lejweleputswa and Maseru (Lesotho) places us as a potential nucleus of a city region.

Once all parties agree consensually with the idea of establishing a city region, we will be in the position to align our programmes of integrated approach to transport planning and integration, land use, infrastructure development and economic development at higher levels.

In this context, particular focus will be on the following major projects:

N8 Corridor Development — linking Mangaung, Thabo Mofutsanyana, Lesotho and incorporating airport and possibility of a dry-port, revitalisation of rail transportation between Mangaung and Ladybrand (through to Lesotho and Kimberley), road infrastructure — establishing increased economic linkages with the main economic hubs in the north and south as well as across the constituting authorities of the city region (for agricultural, tourism and other economic benefits), economic development — incorporating entrepreneurship.

We must move away from being job-seekers to being creators of job opportunities if we are to meet the five million jobs envisaged.

Agro-processing — linking crop production in Thabo Mofutsanyana, Lejweleputswa, Lesotho and livestock farming in Xhariep with secondary agriculture (processing), as well as providing a gateway to national and international markets for the city region's fresh produce and other agricultural products en masse.

International conferencing — the establishment of these facilities should further strengthen the region as capable host, but most importantly, a critical element in the tourism itinerary of many that will be hosted and those passing through alike and skills development — we will also leverage on the centre's strength as the academic hub by providing much needed support to Northern Cape as they seek to establish their own university.

The establishment of Square Kilometre Array (SKA) in the Northern Cape is another ignition spark for production of skills and personnel required to man this globally critical facility. This will require scientists in an array of fields and we must be able to supply our share as well.

Financial stability
We vowed to improve our billing system, cleaning our consumer database, correcting our meter reading, maintaining our infrastructure and bolstering our revenue collection section.

Key to this undertaking was to improve the city's audit outcome, increase the revenue envelope and improve the financial position of the city.

Therefore, in the current financial year, our financial position continues to stabilise.

We are funding the operational expenses of the city through cash collection without any external borrowings and bank overdraft to meet our cash flow requirements.

We have ring-fenced all the conditional grants and ensured that they are released only to defray capital expenditure.

We are on course to improving the financial position of the city and there are indications that there has been an improvement in the first three quarters of this financial year.

Thus, while cash on hand improved to 37 days from a low 7.5 days in 2011, the net cash position remains negative due to previously used conditional grants and the need to cash fund retirement obligation liability.

While long-term outstanding debtors remain high, debtors' control has strengthened with the collection rate averaging 92.5% for the first nine months of this financial year.

The city has committed to ensuring prudent financial management and fiscal discipline through developing and reviewing internal controls; establishing various oversight committees and improving capacity within financial management as evidenced by an improvement from a disclaimer to a qualified audit opinion.

Contents and photographs for this page were supplied and signed off by Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality