KwaZulu-Natal Premier, Sihle Zikalala, held a meeting with residents in La Mercy, Seatides and oThongathi (eMagwaveni), in the northern parts of eThekwini Municipality to address their service delivery issues.
The meeting, held at the La Mercy Community Hall on Monday evening, was attended by community leaders and representatives of affected ratepayers’ associations. The meeting forms part of the provincial government’s intervention plan to work more closely with communities in under-serviced areas, to ensure sustainable development.
MEC for Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Ravi Pillay, Heads of Departments representing various Provincial Department, senior managers from the Office of the Premier and senior officials from the eThekwini Municipality attended the meeting.
The engagement was a follow-up to an earlier meeting that Zikalala held with residents in the affected areas concerning the state of Ward 58, which stretches from Canelands, Verulam, Waterloo, Umdloti, La Mercy, Westbrook and eMagwaveni in oThongathi.
The concerns raised include the need for formal houses to be built to house people who are living in sprawling informal settlements in squalid conditions without basic services such as water, electricity, sanitation and refuse removal. Other issues raised included drainage challenges allegedly emanating from the Anton Lembede Mathematics, Sciences and Technology Academy in La Mercy, environmental degradation, maintenance of verges along the M4, unemployment and crime. The residents also said they were unhappy with continuous overflows and leaks from sewerage lines.
Residents appealed to Zikalala to build a pedestrian bridge, houses for residents living in formal settlements, a clinic, community halls, sports and recreational facilities.
Zikalala responded to residents, apologising for the government’s earlier lack of response to the concerns they had raised:
“As government we wish to humble ourselves and apologise on behalf of all of those who have not responded to letters written by concerned community members. What has compounded issues in this ward is the lack of a good relationship between the community and local councillor. There’s also a lack of good working relations between the councillor and the municipality,” Zikalala said.
“We need to find a way of building organic development which should be based on a very structured approach. We must build a relationship that must be sustained. We should establish a structure that will link the local ratepayers’ associations with the war room. With the formation of this structure we will be able to move forward,” he said.
Zikalala said various government departments would develop an action plan regarding the concerns they had raised and respond within a weeks.
“We must unlock opportunities to support SMMEs in order to empower locals. We will try to meet with the structure that will be formed at least once in three-months (four times a year) so that all issues can be dealt with systematically. We cannot deal with community issues overnight, there are issues that are dealt with as part of short-term plan, medium-term plan and long-term plan. We must be practical in our approach but that must start with building community trust,” Zikalala said.