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Monday Nov 26, 2012

The year that was for eThekwini

The year 2012 signalled the wind of change sweeping through the corridors of Durban City Hall.

Several of Durban's prime buildings along the beachfront, earmarked for eateries, are still vacant.

Many Durban residents were thinking a new broom sweeps clean and this was the heavy weight of expectation on the shoulders of the new city manager, Sibusiso Sithole, who took over the hot seat at the beginning of the year.

Here The Independent on Saturday takes a look at some of the issues the eThekwini municipality faced this year:

  • Manase Report:

    The closely-guarded Manase report, outlining corruption within the city's management running into billions of rand, has yet to be made public.

    The report names city officials and councillors who have alleged been involved in fraud and corruption. While the city fathers initially said they would make the report public, they have yet to do so, maintaining that they are still busy with their own internal investigations and disciplinary processes.

    The city's management and the provincial Department of Co-operative governance said last month that should councillors wish to view the report, they could do so, but only after they signed a confidentiality clause to not reveal the details of the report. This was opposed by opposition party members. Service provision protests: Violent protests have caused much upheaval this year.

    Recently, about 200 residents of the Gandhi informal settlement, near Phoenix, protested against unfair allocation of RDP houses and accused councillors of allocating the homes to their relatives and friends.

    This was the same situation in KwaNdengezi township, near Mariannhill, and in Marriannridge where residents accused their councillor of unfair practices.

    In July, Puntans Hill informal settlement residents went on the rampage, leaving one person dead and several injured, in protests for better housing.

  • Cycle Lanes:

    Considered a positive development, the network of cycle lanes is aimed at reducing residents' reliance on vehicles, and ultimately at reducing air pollution.

    Many of the cycle lanes were completed ahead of the climate change conference that was held in the city last year this time, to showcase the city to delegates as a carbonfriendly city.

    At present the cycle lanes along Riverside Road in Durban North are being completed.

    Residents said they hoped that the cycle lane, with the increased cyclists using the lane, would deter criminal activities along the road.

  • Beachfront:

    There has been mixed feelings over the beachfront upgrades, although it played a central role during the World Cup, the climate change conference and Durban Beach festivals in-between.

    The second phase of the upgrade is under way, which will see changes along the stretch of beach from the Country Club to Blue Lagoon, and the city expects the upgrades to be completed by March next year.

    However, a thorn in the city's side is that the majority of the premises that were built along the beachfront for restaurants prior to the World Cup have yet to be filled.

  • Elephant sculptures:

    Standing defaced and broken, the fate of the elephants at the Warwick Interchange area has yet to be known.

    As part of the Warwick Interchange upgrade, worldrenowned artist Andries Botha was commissioned to create the elephants.

    However, a high-ranking ANC official allegedly demanded that the elephant sculptures' erection be stopped because the elephant was representative of the opposition IFP party, whose party emblem is the massive creature.

    Since 2010, there has been a war of words between the city and Botha as to the reasons work on the elephants had been stopped.

    Both parties have filed court papers and the elephant sculptures lie in ruin.

  • Tourism:

    The city has hosted several conferences, and is getting ready to host the Africa Cup of Nations in January and February next year.

    The city maintains that conferences and events boosts tourist numbers in the city, hence stimulating the local economy.

    In June, the MasterCard Global Destination Cities Index, forecast that Durban's tourism market would grow fastest in terms of both visitor numbers and expenditure on the continent.

    Durban, they said, would be the second-fastest growing tourism city of the 132 cities surveyed worldwide.

  • Back of Port rezoning:

    The most contentious issue at present - the city is busy wrapping up public submissions on the rezoning of Clairwood from residential to business and industry to create a logistics area for the port and the container terminal to be built at the old Durban International Airport site.

    The south Durban communities have been vocal in their opposition to what they call "forced removals" from their homes, while the city maintains that no one will be forced to move.

    In terms of the expropriation act, the city can offer to buy homes from their owners.

    However, reports indicate that a large number of the properties have low values, resulting in owners only being able to use that money to purchase homes in areas such as Verulam, far from their present homes and places of work.

    The Independent on Saturday

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