Halfway there, halfway better

The City Manager, Sibongile Mazibuko, is responsible for the execution of the development plans. (Supplied)

The City Manager, Sibongile Mazibuko, is responsible for the execution of the development plans. (Supplied)

The city council has not been without its challenges around service delivery and financial management over the years, so it is deservedly the focus of a five-year turnaround strategy of executive mayor Thabo Manyoni. He was deployed from the provincial executive, where he was MEC for Police, Roads and Transport, following the 2011 municipal elections and has instituted a strategy that focuses on building a more effective, responsible local government.

The council’s promotion to a metropolitan municipality not only widens its scope and responsibilities, but also carries with it greater financial resources to meet its mandate. This financial clout is being put to use in this turnaround action plan to deliver tangible improvements by 2016. Manyoni produced a report in February this year to account for progress made under this action plan.

This five-year Integrated Development Plan identified eight key areas that needed to be addressed. These are poverty eradication, rural and economic development and job creation; financial sustainability; spatial development and the built environment; eradication of the bucket system; human settlement; public transport; environmental management and climate change; and social and community services.

The mid-term review of this plan states that institutional capacity has taken centre stage following a restructuring programme that aims to bolster delivery by ensuring departments are properly resourced. This restructuring saw the establishment of eight departments in which 90% of staff has been placed thus far.

Financial sustainibility

Positive steps have been taken to enhance the metro’s financial sustainability, which resulted in a qualified audit opinion for 2012/2013 financial year, with some qualification matters. This was achieved due to better financial management and records, and an improved billing system and revenue collection.

“To date the city’s financial position continues to stabilise,” states the mid-term report. 

“Specifically, the city is funding its operational expenses through cash collection without any external borrowings and bank overdraft to meet its cash flow requirements. All conditional grants have been ring-fenced to ensure that they are released only to defray qualifying capital expenditure.” 

These measures are critical if the municipality is to deliver on it’s five-year plan and to effect the economic transformation that ties into its goals of creating a better life for all. These economic development goals are considered central to its ability to combat urban and rural poverty, social inequality and environmental damage.

The five-year plan’s most ambitious objectives are encapsulated in the Airport Development Node, a 2 000ha development that is expected to have a value on completion of R100-billion. This development will consist of an International Convention Centre, a multi-modal transport system supported by industrial space, a regional mall and mixed housing development. Apart from the revenue to be generated through private investment in land and facilities, the project is expected to create work during development for 11 000 people.

Upgrades and development

Further afield, the metro is undertaking significant development of Botshabelo and Thaba Nchu, two key communities that rely heavily on the city of Mangaung for employment and services. This redevelopment includes eradicating informal settlements, building mixed housing developments and creating an environment for local economic activity.

Similarly, it has undertaken a township revitalisation programme that aims to renew Batho Township by building new houses, upgrade of roads and storm-water infrastructure, and installing solar-powered streets lights. This revitalisation theme is not restricted to outlying or underdeveloped areas within the municipal boundaries. Significant investment is being made in Mangaung itself.

This includes the refurbishment of sporting facilities, establishment of historical and cultural monuments such as one honouring former President Nelson Mandela and the redevelopment of the iconic Naval Hill area. A state-of-the-art planetarium and world-class restaurant form the nexus of these plans that are intended to boost the city’s tourist appeal. Redevelopment activities extend to rejuvenating and beautifying the CBD, as well as putting measures in place to attract private sector investment.

The latter has been encouraged by improving the capacity of the city planning department to significantly shorten planning approvals to an average of two months. Recent approvals include the development of a mall in Botshabelo, a regional hospital at Vista Park and Second Avenue Development in Westdene.

Healthy environment

All these development activities are aligned with Mangaung’s aim of creating an attractive, clean, green and healthy environment that will enhance sustainable economic development and the quality of life of its citizens. To this end, the city has undertaken an extensive clean-up programme to remove illegal dumps and alien plants, to supply indigent households with refuse bins and to plant more than 1 300 new trees and 2 500 rose bushes.

Allied to this programme is an all-encompassing Environmental Management Plan that includes the monitoring of quality, promoting energy efficiency campaigns, investing in alternative sources of energy, and retrofitting municipal buildings with energy efficient bulbs. In building an inclusive environment, Mangaung has developed its Integrated Public Transport Network (IPTN) that aims to improve mobility and access for all. Service delivery has been bolstered through investment in machinery, vehicles and facilities to ensure basic needs can be met.

Most crucially, considering the pressure on its water resources, Mangaung has implemented a Water Demand Management Programme to reduce non-revenue water and ensure that water is conserved for future generations. The capacity of the Sterkwater Waste Water Treatment Plant has been doubled from 10 mega litres to 20 mega litres, while the new North East Waste Water Treatment Plant is more than halfway to completion.

A new sewer plant has also been approved and earmarked for development in Botshabelo. These plans are part of the city’s massive programme to overcome its road and storm-water backlogs. This programme is focused on increasing the lifespan of its existing road infrastructure, while upgrading and rehabilitating other key roads in the city limits surrounding townships.

Electricity capacity is another area of basic service delivery that has received concerted attention. This programme consists of extending access to households, providing free basic electricity grants, erecting high-mast lighting in the municipal area, installing pre- and post-paid meters with smart capabilities and undertaking extensive repairs and maintenance of the electricity network. Allied to this infrastructure investment is the metro’s human settlements programme that is in dire need of attention.

It has suffered a serious housing backlog that is attributed to more than half of its population residing in Mangaung. It has made steady progress in issuing title deeds to thousands of households while also addressing informal settlements through its Informal Settlement Upgrading Strategy. This comprises a wide-ranging plan of acquiring land for formal settlement.

Economic development

These plans tie into the city’s social upliftment and youth development plans that are as far-reaching as they are crucial to an area lacking strong economic activity. Apart from social programmes such as a clothing bank, the donation of blankets and distribution of food parcels, the city has implemented poverty alleviation projects that include vegetable gardens, weaving and recycling projects, and arts and culture projects.

“The common denominator in all our efforts is to ensure that all our programmes yield economic development opportunities for our people and the major (but not only) benefactors of these should be our youth,” the mayor’s report states.

“As a result, the city, through its partnership with the city of Ghent in Belgium, has opened a furniture repairs factory through which currently, 25 youth entrepreneurs are being trained to repair and manufacture furniture.”

Other youth-focused projects include the training of youth by the municipality and public works-related projects such as road rehabilitation and sidewalk rejuvenation, the Airport Development Node, parking marshals, and greening and cleaning projects. Municipal health services have also been bolstered in the five-year plan and focus on Early Childhood Development Centres, food premises, medical waste generators, water quality and basic hygiene awareness.

The city has invested in a Disaster Management Centre to provide efficient, timely disaster management services to its communities, and has also established a fire station in Botshabelo to service this outlying community.

Challenges and achievements

The city’s mid-term report acknowledges that while noticeable progress has been made since 2011, it still has critical areas that need to be addressed. It highlights rural development, improved waste management, speedy development of land parcels and the upgrading of roads and storm water infrastructure as areas that require diligent attention and action.

“The report bears testimony that the city has made significant and encouraging progress in the past 28 months in discharging its constitutional mandate of providing services to communities,” the mayor acknowledges.

“Notable progress is reported in relation to development of bulk infrastructure for water and sanitation services that are indispensable for the provision of effective water and sanitation services.

“The city has been conscious that all these seemingly insurmountable challenges would be resolved through fostering strategic partnership with government and its entities within an inter-government framework. It is also important to acknowledge the valuable contribution made by critical stakeholders such as the private sector and the broader community in various civil society formations in the achievement of our development goals.

“We might have made mistakes as we move forward, but we were able to take stock and correct them. Our ability to work as a collective has made us proud.”

This article has been paid for and signed off by the Mangaung Metropolitan Municipality.