Durban Mayor Obed Mlaba
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Durban looks beyond
the 2010 World Cup
By Obed Mlaba, Mayor of eThekwini Municipality
29 March 2009: Durban ranks as one of the biggest and most commercially active cities in South Africa. It is for this and other reasons that we are the hive of economic activity. Our climate, which is perfect throughout the year, not only makes us the preferred tourist destination but also the envy of other cities. This and the friendly disposition of Durban’s people accounts for the many national and international events that are frequently held in our city.
The City has the biggest port on the African continent, which serves as a gateway for some 2.5 millions container cargo per year. We are wary of the harbour’s strategic importance to the City’s GDP. To this end, the Government recently commissioned a R1.7 billion widening of the harbour mouth so that the port can handle larger ships. Studies show that this will ensure the free flow of marine transport and also reduce the time spent by cargo ships waiting to load or offload goods.
One of the major achievements of the City of Durban is the economic growth. A three-year study was conducted after the first democratic elections, which revealed a negative growth of 4.7 per cent per annum in the City’s economy. The City then called for an independent investigation to develop a strategy to remedy the situation.
By enlisting the help of professional organizations such as the Durban Chamber of Business, the City was able to create a Growth Coalition strategy, which resulted in the 7.8 per cent economic growth that we today enjoy. There are other interventions aimed at ensuring that we remain on a prosperous economic path including: the River horse Valley Estate, Point Water Development, Bridge City, the Dube Trade Port which incorporates the King Shaka International Airport, and the Warwick precinct development project.
Our 2010 preparations are also shaping up extremely well. Given Durban’s reputation as Africa’s premier sporting and events destination; it would not be an exaggeration to say that this City will deliver a 2010 World Cup event never seen before. Our iconic Moses Mabhida stadium is nearly ready to host the football loving nations of the world. I have already had compliments from people on how the stadium has given the City a facelift. But besides the infrastructural development that came with our 2010 preparations, the building of the stadium has had some positive spin offs for our people.
Furthermore, stadiums in townships around Durban and Pietermaritzburg have also been upgraded to Fifa standards for use as training venues. Our plans extend well beyond 2010 and that is why we are not dismissing the prospect of bidding to host the Olympics in the near future.
To ensure an event free 2010 Fifa World cup, the City has placed safety at the top of its agenda. We have recruited more Metro policemen and women and will continue to do so. Through creating partnerships with other crime fighting agencies and with the help of volunteers, the City aims to rid society of the scourge of criminals. Although we have done much to improve the lot for the impoverished, we still still face challenges in this regard. This situation is compounded by the influx of people into the City in search of better job opportunities. This inevitably leads to the springing up of informal settlements, which for us translate into problems of unhygienic and unsafe living conditions. But even with this we are not deterred.
Besides being the only Unicity in the country to take housing delivery in its stride, we are also the only City in the world to deliver 18,000 housing units per year.
Another great threat to our development as a country is the scourge of HIV/AIDS. It is with this in mind that we initiated awareness campaigns aimed at educating communities about the ravaging effects of this deadly virus. We started with the awareness campaigns and worked very hard to de-stigmatise this killer disease. According to the latest medical reports we seem to be on the right path. We are not happy that there are still people who contract this disease but we have made great strides in our fight against HIV/AIDS.
As a city we also view threats posed by global warming quite seriously. We recently launched an energy saving office, the first of its kind in South Africa. The office brings together experts in different disciplines to ensure that we minimise energy usage and create a society that cares about the environment.
Another bold approach that we took was the creation of greenbelts by planting indigenous trees. We are planting more than 62 500 indigenous trees to wash away carbon emissions expected to be generated through hosting the 2010 Fifa World Cup and to create a new green lung in the rapidly growing northern part of the city.
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