Gauteng is a uniquely placed Province, in size, it is the smallest, but the biggest when it comes to economic activity. This juxtaposition requires astute leadership that is able to seamlessly adapt to the changing demands of the inhabitants of the province.
Migration into the province has been rampant, dating back to the days of migrant labourers, when gold mining was at its peak, however it continues today as many South Africans leave their homes in order to settle into what is still perceived as the land of abundant opportunities and success.
This puts a strain on the Province’s resources and hampers service delivery rates, to the detriment of its people. Local municipalities work tirelessly under the guidance and leadership of the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs to ensure that the needs of the citizens are met. Given the autonomy of local municipalities, working towards a common Provincial goal offers its fair share of challenges.
As the Department espouses the Back to Basics principles, it illustrates its commitment as the engine that runs in all local municipalities. But the case of Gauteng requires a more sophisticated collaborative effort, as the Province is home to three Metropolitan Municipalities that each present their own set of challenges. Other provinces that are far larger and compete with Gauteng for economic dominance only have one metro. The Department is therefore required to entice the metros and other local municipalities into adopting strategies that will allow for greater communication and facilitate integrated planning processes for a more effective dispersing of resources. It is mandated to play a leading role in all service delivery aspects, as it is the only government Department that is the joining bridge between national, provincial and local imperatives.
The Gauteng City Region is created to compete with global cities such as London and other first world cities. It, therefore, acts as the economic heartland of the Country and requires special attention in dealing with infrastructure development as well as spatial planning. The only City Region in the country as an indication of the Province’s pioneer driven status and caters to surrounding towns that fall outside of the Province’s boundaries.
Gauteng has done a commendable job in pioneering projects that are geared at improving the lives of ordinary South Africans, whilst creating a Region that is a formidable competitor in the African continent whilst setting sights on the global scale and making inroads in that regard. It is imperative at all times to view advancement beyond the borders of the Country and the Continent and strive to place development on par with international counterparts.
As a key role player in the development and adoptions of IDPs, infrastructure/social grants and MIG projects, CoGTA plays an integral role in ensuring that Gauteng municipalities develop, adopt and implement programs that are beneficial to its communities. This, therefore, requires CoGTA to play a facilitating role in society to ensure that services are delivered to those who need it most.
A holistic approach is therefore called for at this stage. As a collaborative role between CoGTA, Municipalities in the City Region, as well as other stakeholders, would allow for planning processes that do not favour one municipality over another but one that sees sectional programs being implemented that should spill over to the whole Province. This must not be sacrificed at the altar of political differences given that different parties govern at the various spheres of governance. The people of this Province must come first
In the 2018/2019 budget speech, I made reference to the urgent need to address the informal settlement conditions and dire states of the hostels in Gauteng, noting that previous attempts to remedy the situation have proved ineffective. CoGTA as a driver of service delivery at the municipal level and endorsers of Back to Basics requires there to be an integrated approach in dealing with this issue.
Over 100 million Rands have been set aside to address the hostels and seeing as hostels are found in all metros and surrounding municipalities within the City Region, a unilateral approach will not yield the necessary results and the residents would be greatly served if all stakeholders tackled the problem together.
As the City Region is one that is vastly urban in nature, housing challenges stifle development. The demand increases faster than supply and the Region is forced to seek alternative solutions. Through the rollout of the Provinces planned 16 Mega Human Settlement Cities and the adoption of Alternative Building Technologies (ABT) the Province affirms fully its commitment to service delivery and illustrates that more can be done through collaboration and pooling resources.
This, however, requires multi-sectoral planning sessions in order to positively impact service delivery. As our people gain access to services, their dignity is restored and South Africa advances closer to fulfilling the promise of the rainbow nation. As previous hosts of COP 17, adopting green technology in the form of ABT places the country in a favourable global position and affirms its stance on climate changes.
Another planning aspect that requires an integrated approach to the creation of a thriving City Region is that of transport. Previously, the Province was one that faced numerous challenges in relation to routes, violence, and cost. Adopting principles of a City Region requires seamless movement between the metros and other municipalities as citizens advance towards integration thus creating greater social cohesion.
All areas are therefore required to be accessible and not just major cities and large townships. The Gautrain has improved movement and reduced traffic on routes leading up to the airport and decreased travel time from Pretoria to Johannesburg for communities. The development of bus lanes and modernised busses offer alternative traveling solutions to communities that previously relied solely on the taxi and metro rail systems. These services, however, should not be limited to the metros and immediate surrounding areas as access to adequate transportation is a service delivery imperative that has positive spill-over effects of roads and infrastructure.
In essence greater communication and the adoption of an integrated planning approach will greatly benefit the communities that call the Gauteng City Region home. It will lead to interdepartmental collaborations and improve relations between local and provincial departments thus yielding positive service delivery results. It is the most effective strategy for the Region and one that CoGTA is prepared to drive.
Uhuru Moiloa is the MEC for Human Settlements and Cooperative Governance