Municipality Responds to Cross-Cutting Service Delivery Comments
The Municipal Council of Manzini held its 2021 Annual General Meeting (AGM) about two months ago wherein representations on its operational and financial performance during the previous financial year (2020/2021) were made. During the meeting a number of comments and questions were expressed by stakeholders. Whilst some of the questions were briefly responded to during the meeting, others could not due to time limitations in line with National Covid-19 Regulations which imposed restrictions on the number of hours that could be spent in gatherings. The Municipality made an undertaking to respond to the questions and comments on a later date; also taking into account those that had been posed by stakeholders who followed the meeting virtually as it was also being livestreamed on social media. The Municipality would like to present the following responses to comments and questions that were posed during the 2021 AGM;
- AUTISM CENTRE
Stakeholder comment: “We thank God that the Central Government put in money towards the Autism Centre. We still need to do more on educating the public about the Autism Centre”.
Municipality responds: “Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is a human development disability that can cause significant social, communication and behavioral challenges. The Autism Centre will be serving the whole nation. Phase 1 of the newly constructed centre is expected to start operating soon, through partnership with relevant stakeholders such as the Ministry of Health. For a start, the Centre will only provide autism therapy services to children. More services like pre-school services will be provided at a later stage. Construction of Phase 2 of the project will soon commence. Completion of Phase 2 will allow for expansion of the autism services provided at the Centre”.
- BOSCO BRIDGE CONSTRUCTION
Stakeholder comment: “We can’t wait for the bridge at Ngwane Park (Bosco Bridge). We wish it was ready tomorrow”.
Municipality responds: “Construction of the Bosco Bridge, Southern Distributor Road, Mimosa Street and Tikhuba Street (from Bosco to the Traffic Circle via Coates Valley) has already commenced. The contractor on site is A.G. Thomas Construction. Construction works are projected to run for a period of 18 months; weather permitting. Construction of the bridge will create an additional entry/exit point into the city centre; which will alleviate traffic congestion on the D98 road (from Ngwane Park, via Old Zakhele into the city centre)”.
- OMISSION OF EXTENSION 6 ROADS FROM IDP
Stakeholder comment: “I am worried that we requested upgrading of Extension 6 roads but it has been left out in the IDP. What is the reason?”
Municipality responds: “The Municipal Council of Manzini is guided by the Integrated Development Plan (IDP) regarding capital projects and programmes that are to be delivered within the defined IDP period (5 years). The current IDP ends in the year 2024. The process is that, subsequent to collection of IDP submissions from the communities, the Municipality goes back to the drawing board and engages in a prioritization exercise. Prioritization is influenced by multiple factors including the Municipality’s financial capacity to undertake the projects. It is also influenced by whether or not the particular road renders residents unable to access their residences during bad weather such as heavy rains. Another factor that is considered is whether or not the road contributes to flooding of nearby properties during heavy rains. The Municipality also considers whether or not the road is the main road (arterial road) that distributes traffic within the particular neighbourhood. The Municipality’s desire is to surface all gravel roads in the city all at once but it finds itself having to do so in phases due to unavailability of sufficient funds. At the moment, the ratio of surfaced to gravel roads in the city is 60:40. At least E500 million is required to have all the remaining gravel roads in the city surfaced. What compounds the challenge is that many surfaced main roads are now too old and need rehabilitation. That brings the total amount that is required to attend to all the roads in the city to approximately E1 billion. The Municipality is constantly looking for innovative ways of having the city roads surfaced; and that includes a Public Private Partnership approach. The Municipality commits to consistent road maintenance until all gravel roads are eventually surfaced and all pothole-riddled roads are eventually rehabilitated”.
- MAIN BUS RANK TRAFFIC CONGESTION
Stakeholder comment: “Please improve on the traffic congestion at the main bus rank”.
Municipality responds: “Whilst it is true that, globally, the existence of traffic is related to the vibrancy of a city, it is also true that such traffic needs to be properly managed. It is worth-mentioning that the Main Bus Rank forms part of the massive upcoming Old Trade Fair Development Project (Manzini Regional Shopping Mall) and, through this project, it will be developed to modern standards. The Municipality anticipates no traffic congestion at the Main Bus Rank once the project is complete. Again, working together with the public transport associations, the Municipality will for now try to devise strategies of managing the obtaining congestion”.
- ROAD INFRASTRUCTURE DAMAGE DURING WATER PIPE BURSTS
Stakeholder comment: “Please ensure that EWSC does not leave our infrastructure damaged when attending to their pipe bursts”.
Municipality responds: “As part of the 2019-2024 Integrated Development Plan, the Municipality has prioritized strengthening of relations with all strategic stakeholders such as utility companies. This will see to it that relevant agreements are entered into with regard to the way both parties execute their work in the city. Such agreements will see to it that concerns by stakeholders are effectively addressed”.
- ILLEGAL STREET VENDORS
Stakeholder comment: “Please attend to the issue illegal street vendors. Their presence means there is a need for a means of survival. Educate them on how to comply”.
Municipality responds: “The reality is that there is a sharp increase in the number of applications for trading space in the city centre. Unfortunately, the city centre has reached its full capacity in terms of space that is allocated for informal trading. Approximately 2000 informal traders who possess the Municipality’s permits occupy the city centre on a daily basis. As a way of somewhat meeting the demand for informal trading, the Municipality introduced quarterly flea markets. The flea markets create an opportunity for those who wish to sell something in order to earn some money to do so. Furthermore, the Municipality is now working on introducing night time flea markets as a measure to expand this trading opportunity. Moreover, the Municipality is working towards formalising street vending in the neighbourhoods. Suitable pockets of land for such activity have already been identified. It is anticipated that these and many more interventions that are yet to be explored will yield the desired impact in the city”.
- MENTAL HEALTH ISSUES ON THE RISE IN MANZINI?
Stakeholder question: “The number of people who receive counseling seems to have increased. Are we having mental health issues in the city? There are so many issues that are happening now – socially, emotionally and otherwise. These could be causing a lot of stress to the people”.
Municipality responds: “Indications are that the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic has negatively affected society in general as a result of job losses, negative changes in lifestyle, loss of relatives and a host of other social impacts. These factors have led to an increase in mental health issues, depression and anxiety. The Municipality is working collaboratively with the Deputy Prime Minister’s Office and the National Psychiatric Referral Hospital in dealing with such vulnerable groups. The Municipality has invested in the creation of a social work office for purposes of coordinating and providing support to vulnerable groups of society”.
- URBAN POVERTY IS REAL. WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Stakeholder question: “Urban poverty is real. What can we do more besides feeding the destitute children? What can be the bigger picture? Something like backyard gardens to take care of the adults who are also poor”.
Municipality responds: “Yes, urban poverty is real – for both children and adults. Going forward we will also look into possible interventions with regard to poverty amongst the adult population. However, it is a fact that we may not be able to do all this on our own hence we need to work collaboratively with all relevant stakeholders. However, we can mention that the Municipality has long, medium and short term programmes that seek to eradicate poverty in the city in line with Goal Number 1 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. These programmes are largely centred around Local Economic Development and include the expansion of informal trade opportunities, upgrading and formalization of urban informal settlements so that owners are able to be empowered with 99-year lease agreements (which can enable them to access finance) as well as the provision of community basic services such as ablution facilities, potable water and waste management services”.
- ANY PLANS FOR MEINTJIES ROAD?
Stakeholder question: “I am worried about the road from the main bus rank to Woodmasters (Meintjies street). Is there any hope that the road will be attended to (rehabilitated)?”
Municipality responds: “The Municipal Council of Manzini is equally concerned about the condition of Meintjies Street. It is a fact that this road requires urgent rehabilitation. The Municipality has pegged delivery of this project before the end of the 2019-2024 Integrated Development Plan (IDP) period. In actual fact, all things constant, the road will have been rehabilitated by the end of 2022. In the meantime, will continue prioritizing the road in terms of maintenance and we request further patience from road users whilst we work on the procurement processes”.
- ABANDONMENT OF STRUCTURES IN THE CITY
Stakeholder question: “In Ward 4 (Ngwane Park) please attend to abandoned structures”.
Municipality responds: “The Municipality recently embarked on an exercise wherein it was identifying all abandoned structures within the Manzini urban area. All abandoned structures have been identified and a strategy put in place to deal with the challenge holistically. Details of the strategy will be published through the Municipality’s communication platforms in due course”.
- TRAFFIC INTERCHANGE: WHAT VALUE ADD CAN WE EXPECT?
Stakeholder question: “What value add is the massive traffic interchange that is under construction at the Golf Course going to bring to the city?”
Municipality responds: “The MR3 East Traffic Interchange will bring about state-of-the-art intersection designs to the City of Manzini; making it one of the landmark features of the city. It will also attract many new developments in the immediate vicinity of the project. Moreover, due to the fact that the majority of the traffic using MR3 East will be diverted through the Central Distributor Road (in the interim), a number of improvements are expected on and along the Central Distributor Road to enable this road to deliver the traffic onto MR3 West (Nazarene) for a continuous vehicular traffic movement from east to west and vice versa. However, a proper Highway needs to be constructed in the near future to take traffic from this new interchange directly onto MR3 West (KaKhoza-Nazarene stretch). This will enable the MR3 to provide a cross-country vehicular traffic flow from Ngwenya Border Post to the east of the country”.
- WILL THE GOLF COURSE RELOCATE?
Stakeholder question: “With construction of the traffic interchange having taken up a portion of the Manzini golf course, where is the golf course going to be relocated?”
Municipality responds: “Where the golf course was there is a huge mini city that will be coming up, including a school. In the next 24 to 36 months it will be a whole different space”
- URBAN-RURAL RELATIONS CRUCIAL
Stakeholder comment: “We can still do more regarding stakeholder engagement. We know there are financial constraints but such engagements with neighbouring traditional authorities could help us in the peri-urban area. It is true that whatever we do in the peri-urban area impacts the city in one way of the other”.
Municipality responds: “There exists partnerships with our neighbouring rural communities. That is where we source gravel for maintenance of our roads. We are now looking at formalizing such partnerships in the form of Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) so that they are strengthened. Otherwise, generally, the city has a good working relationship with traditional authorities in the neighbouring peri-urban areas”.
- WE NEED MORE RATES PAYMENT PROMOTIONS
Stakeholder comment: “We need promotional initiatives so to make people pay more rates? When are we going to have the next rates payment promotion?”
Municipality responds: “The rates promotion initiatives suggestion is noted. It may be appropriate to mention that, in actual fact, we do budget for such activities as a means to encourage rates payment. We even have a specific budget line in the current financial year 2021/2022. We hope to make it much bigger, relevant and more appealing in the near future”.
- DEFAULTING ON PAYMENT THE CAUSE OF HIGH RATES BILLS
Stakeholder comment: “Can we start a programme that will compel anyone who wants to start a business to clear their rates first? I would like to urge every property owner to pay their rates. When others do not pay, those who pay find themselves having to pay more. If we could all pay, the rates would not increase much”.
Municipality responds: “The spirit of the suggestion from the stakeholder is noted and well appreciated. It is encouraging to note that there are stakeholders who fully comprehend the repercussions relating to rates payment default; not only for the ratepayer but service delivery at large. Indeed, it is absolutely essential that all Manzini urban property owners pay their rates in full and on time so that the city can receive the expected municipal services on time”.
- MAXIMISE VALUE OF INYATSI/MUNICIPALITY PARTNERSHIP
Stakeholder comment: “As part of the partnership with Inyatsi, please request them to also help establish recreational and sports facilities in the city”.
Municipality responds: “The suggestion is noted. In line with its Local Economic Development (LED) strategy, the Municipality always makes it a point to seize opportunities that present themselves as part of capital projects that get to be delivered in the city”.
- VAT EARNED IN THE CITY MUST BE CHANNELED TO CITY INFRASTRUCTURE
Stakeholder comment: “Is it possible to arrange for a certain percentage of VAT earned in the city to be channeled to financing city infrastructure maintenance?”
Municipality responds: “It is indeed true that a revenue sharing formula with entities that have a presence in the city would significantly boost the Municipality’s revenue base and also help ease the rates payment burden on ratepayers. However, it is equally true that there are legislative factors that need to be addressed before such arrangement can be put into effect. We must say that the stakeholder suggestion is most appreciated and will be explored going forward”.