Written by Robert Brand, Friday, 04 May 2012
Talking about the future strategy for Ekurhuleni, work stream facilitator for Social Development and Cohesion, Hlula Msimang asked public participants to consider where they find themselves now and to think about where they would like to be in the future. And then to devise a means of crossing the divide to reach their goals.
The current performance issues that the metro faces include:
- Population growth and urbanisation;
- Public health services that are overstretched;
- A public education system that is underperforming;
- Social fracturing and inequality;
- Poverty and unemployment are rife;
- Social infrastructure and amenity backlog;
- Safety and security.
Msimang’s presentation focused on creating a future Ekurhuleni taking into consideration population growth and migration. Migration he said presented the metro with an enormous challenge especially in terms of available space and land.
“There is not enough land available in Ekurhuleni, and with a growing population the demand is going to increase further. With the population growth comes the shrinking of space, which is why the metro has to examine the possibility of high-density housing and appropriate service delivery.
Our health infrastructure is catering to people who come from outside Ekurhuleni’s boundaries to access our health services, which is why our services are becoming stretched.”
Ekurhuleni is already an urban environment and unfortunately as the influx increases, informal settlements will continue to grow. Already the metro cannot meet the backlog and demand for RDP housing.
Msimang highlighted the education crisis and said it is critical to ensure that every child that goes through the schooling system can read, write and do arithmetic, so that they can grow up and learn skills to create an income stream.
“People must acquire skills in order to get jobs, it is the only way out of poverty. Education is the best escape out of poverty. We live in a changing and advancing world, jobs demand a certain level of skills that people must have in order to quality for employment.”
Long-term risks and opportunities
His presentation also centred on the following:
- There is a large youth population – young people under the age of 35 make up 60 percent of Ekurhuleni’s population.
- Climate change is conducive to change in our communities.
- Available resources (financial and other) in the private sector and other spheres of government.
- Advances in ICT offer an opportunity for modernised delivery of services for a smart city.
- Existing infrastructure for further developments.
There metro’s main concern is reduction of poverty, but it is important to address the core problems. But how does one break the cycle of poverty? Which brings one to the point of low-cost housing. Housing is an emotive issue, but it can be used to build integrated and sustainable communities, where sport and culture play a major part, Msimang said.
Safe and secure cities are high on the agenda, but policing is not the only answer to reducing crime in a community. Community involvement and neighbourhood watches can play a big role to ensure residents’ safety. Looking out for our neighbours is one way of contributing towards a safer community. More importantly, we have to grapple with the root causes of crime, such as alcohol abuse and drug addiction. We also have to undergo a mindshift to make to changes that we want to see in a future Ekurhuleni. People resist change, but that is the only way things will improve in our city.
The tax base of the city is very thin, we don’t have the resources or the capacity. Also, the global recession has impacted on us, with factories being forced to close down resulting in big job losses. The infrastructure in our city needs to be developed as part of our 2055 goals and technology has to play a pivotal role in the achievement of our dreams for the world-class city of Ekurhuleni.