My city needs a new vision. The one we crafted in the early 1980’s has run its course. Naturally we did not countenance the establishment of 580 informal settlements or the demand that would be placed upon Durban as the sole economic engine of KwaZulu-Natal. How could we have? In the early 1980’s we were trying, with the help of Inkatha Ya KwaZulu, to integrate the populations of Durban into a single functioning economy. Our goal was wealth creation for everyone who was prepared to put in the hard work that socio-economic development entails. The vast majority of what is today eThekwini-Durban, all 110 wards of it, is largely underdeveloped and under-resourced.
Yes the government of Durban has achieved some of the infrastructure and local economic development goals to create economic opportunity closer to where the African populations were located due to the spatial planning of the apartheid system. Yes the government of Durban has succeeded in racially integrating schools, colleges and universities; hospitals and clinics; public amenities and facilities; as well as residential suburbs. Yes the government of Durban has enabled Durban to grow, both in terms of populations and in terms of GDP; and has thus been able to represent Durban as a prosperous city.
However there remain the fundamentally sluggish realities of Durban’s closed economy that only works on the say-so and acquiescence of those who hold power; of Durban’s economic reliance on public expenditure that only serves to infuriate the rate payers; of Durban’s refusal to become a big city with multiple centres of economic activity; and of Durban’s image as a holiday town that depends on seasonal tourism.
To take the situation of Durban seriously one is forced to ask some difficult questions, like: Is there a need for…
- Umdoni to exist outside of eThekwini?
- Umkhambathini to exist outside of eThekwini?
- Ndwedwe to exist outside of eThekwini?
- KwaDukuza to exist outside of eThekwini?
Further to which and in consideration of Durban’s 110 wards, is it not more agreeable that we should have these 110 wards subdivided into 220 wards so as to closely focus local socio-economic development activities, with each ward councillor being responsible for the development plans of their own ward? Yes this will mean that we have 220 ward councillors and 220 proportional representative councillors; and yes this will mean the cost of operating the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality will possibly double, but that will be offset by gains from economic development.
So to be clear we want to enlarge Durban by acquiring the adjacent municipalities and we want to focus Durban by halving the size of each ward, which by doubling the number of wards will lead to better economic prospects for Durban.
But what about housing? Without waiting for subsidies from provincial and national government, Durban City Council and eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality should be in the business of continuously building serviced housing units to be rented out at just R100 a month. Literally a “RDP” size house could be yours for just R100 a month; or a room in a hostel could be yours for just R100 a month; or a “RDP” size flat (same floor space as the “RDP” house except in an apartment block) could be yours for just R100 a month. This means that there must be the mass development of housing units wherever there is suitable land, and that these developments must be implemented in tandem with new industrial parks, new shopping centres and new business districts. There is no point building housing units far away from work opportunities.
This means that there should not be anyone living on the street, in a homeless shelter, in an informal settlement or in any state of homelessness, vagrancy, destitution or squatting. Everyone, including the beggars who ply the streets, can afford R100 a month for somewhere safe to live that is their own home. This means the removal of every informal settlement in eThekwini-Durban and the prohibition of the establishment of any new informal settlements.
Without a doubt there needs to be a municipal public health clinic in every municipal ward. Each clinic must be focused on general healthcare and specialised psychiatric healthcare in order for the people of Durban to be adequately cared for throughout their lives. Do not wait for the provincial or national departments of health. Every clinic must have a current and constantly updated electronic patient file on every resident of that ward – even if the patient/resident does not visit the municipal public health clinic in their ward but sees their own general practitioner in private practice. This is a major priority.
As far as transport goes, integration is the most important thing. We want to integrate train, bus, minibus, metred cab and ride hailing services into a single integrated public transport system. A single ticketing system will enable the cost of public transport to be reduced for the passengers. Professional driver training and preparation with proper employment benefits will ensure a better quality of service all round. The municipality must manage every train, bus, minibus, metred cab and ride hailing stop, station and rank equitably so that it is possible to switch from one method of transport to the next with ease. This means the formalisation of all trading activities in and at all stops, stations and ranks. Obviously there must be no tolerance of public transport operators stopping at a point which is not an official demarcated stop for any reason, unless they are in distress and in need of help. Naturally public transport must run 24 hours a day for Durban to be a competitive city.
This change in thinking about public transport will include a rapid rail system that connects North Durban, Central Durban, South Durban, West Durban and Pietermaritzburg, including the airport. This system must be created to be integrated with the integrated Durban public transport system and to be expanded to connect Durban with Johannesburg and Pretoria; and to connect Durban with East London, Port Elizabeth, Grahamstown, Stellenbosch and Cape Town; both with stops, at every major centre, along the way. This is not enough. The road and rail networks of KwaZulu-Natal have to be improved with regular passenger and freight traffic being enabled to embolden economic growth. This means that at every point along the border of eThekwini-Durban, either as is or enlarged, where there is a road or a rail that traverses that border, there must be a tollgate established; and that all other tollgates within the limits of eThekwini-Durban must be removed.
With respect to the police, the Durban Metropolitan Police services must be expanded so as to patrol the whole of eThekwini-Durban in the same way that they patrol the beach area, but throughout the day and the night. They must be responsible for the policing of all public transportation and public housing. There must be a Durban Metropolitan Police Station in every demarcated Voting District. Specialised Task Forces to address the problems of smuggling, drugs and organised crime must be established to stamp out the use of Durban as a trafficking port.
Finally all of eThekwini-Durban must be subject to the laws of the Republic of South Africa and the bye-laws of eThekwini-Durban, without any exceptions. It is this new approach of law abiding citizenry that will drive Durban into a prosperous future that is beneficial for all of Durban’s people. This is the New Vision for Durban – not one rooted in ideological nonsense – but one that is rooted in the practical realignment of the public services that are needed by everyone.