uMngeni chose progress and South Africa can too
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
Prioritising the poor and youth
The story of uMngeni shows that we can fix South Africa and get it working for everyone – and get everyone working. Road by road, streetlight by streetlight, DA Mayor Chris Pappas and Deputy Mayor Sandile Mnikathi along with their team and many helpful residents are fixing uMngeni. This beautiful KwaZulu Natal Midlands municipality, home to towns such as Howick, Mpophomeni and Hilton, is the first ever to be run by the DA in the province. After just one year since taking over from the ANC, the difference between uMngeni and other KZN municipalities is already striking. Here is a taste of the real, tangible progress that has been achieved for residents so far.
Since the DA took over last year, the number of households receiving free basic services has gone up from 133 to 3 005, a 22-fold increase. The budget allocated to develop young people has been increased by 50% to R1.5 million. And a lot of effort and resources have been targeted at fixing roads and other infrastructure in poor, rural areas such as Shifu, Emashingeni and Hhaza.
To improve waste collection and reduce impact on the environment, they’ve procured a new refuse collection truck and TLB (tractor loader backhoe), with more such vehicles planned once finances allow. To address littering and illegal dumping, they’ve employed 60 people for a 6-month period. They’ve also supplied their NPO partners with 25 temporary workers for cleanup and gardening purposes.
Fixing the finances
This is a massive challenge due to decades of neglect. The first priority has been to fix high-use roads, so they almost doubled the road maintenance budget, from R11 million to R21 million. A lot of pothole-fixing and stormwater clearing has been undertaken and R4 million has been budgeted to retrofit LED streetlights.
Bringing law and order
R25,5 million of debt has been recovered so far and after only 11 months, the municipality paid back R10.4 million of loans leaving uMngeni debt-free and saving rate payers R450 000 in interest each year.
Creating work and jobs
Recognising that law and order is the essential foundation for a functional municipality, they are building a vehicle pound that will double up as the official offices and base for uMngeni Traffic, beefing up their CCTV and LNPR camera systems, and training more traffic officers. They’ve also expanded their contracted security services and undertaken an extensive repair of street lights, to deter crime.
Being open and fair
To grow tourism jobs, they have begun the process of redeveloping the Howick Falls as a major attraction. Since November 2021, the administration has also created 230 employment opportunities and added 16 new permanent staff members. The budget to assist small-scale farmers has been doubled from R300 000 to R600 000, while the budget to assist SMMEs has been more than doubled, from R130 000 to R300 000. A clean, orderly, working municipality leads to job creation, because people feel confident about the future, and so they invest. When you fix a pothole, you don’t just restore the road, you restore people’s faith in the future. This is the most important way for any municipality to drive job creation.
Their goal is to be transparent, so all council meetings are open to the public and as much information as possible is published on the municipal website so that the public can scrutinise everything. Employment opportunities are provided in a transparent and fair manner, and no longer to the politically connected. Temporary employment opportunities are allocated using a randomised selection process.
This is just the beginning and there is an enormous amount of fixing and building still to be done. But it’s happening, one bite at a time. In four years’ time at the end of their first term in office, uMngeni will be an island of order and progress in a sea of chaos and decline. It will be a beacon of hope and a shining example of what’s possible elsewhere. uMngeni chose the DA difference. In the next general election, the whole of South Africa can too.