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Soaring crime, land and water struggles, broken bridges — KZN’s Msunduzi Municipality battles myriad problems

Soaring crime, land and water struggles, broken bridges — KZN’s Msunduzi Municipality battles myriad problems
Nomvula Mokonyane promised better service delivery during her campaign visit to Ward 22 Kwa Dambuza Msunduzi subregion in Pietermaritzburg. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Residents continue to live in squalid conditions in the Msunduzi Local Municipality, which has the second-largest number of registered voters in KwaZulu-Natal and includes Pietermaritzburg, Mafunze and Henryville. As part of pre-election coverage, Daily Maverick visited the area while the ANC was campaigning in the area.

Msunduzi is limping along, revealing why the ANC is struggling in its KZN heartland as traditional leaders complain about water, broken roads and promises and unsafe scholar bridges.

Since democracy, the area has been an ANC stronghold at local level until dropping to 47% in the 2021 local government elections.

A drive through Mafunze village is mostly pleasant as the roads have been tarred and are in good condition, with the fresh countryside breeze and tranquillity a welcome treat for city dwellers. 

However, behind this facade, members of the Mafunze Royal Palace raised myriad issues.

A resident of Mafunze in Msunduzi waiting for public transport on 7 May 2024. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Daily Maverick was following ANC first deputy secretary-general Nomvula Mokonyane on her campaign trail on Tuesday. It kicked off at the Mafunze Royal Palace, where the ANC leader, flanked by Msunduzi Municipality mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla, paid a courtesy visit to Chief Maviyo Ngcobo and his family. 

After welcoming Mokonyane and her entourage, they all sat in the TV room where the chief appeared to be watching soapies. 

Addressing Mokonyane, the chief’s brother, Shongani Ngcobo, said residents had a problem accessing water. Many had to walk long distances to access water, which was an inconvenience.

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Msunduzi Mayor Mzimkhulu Thebolla. (Photo: Sandisiwe Shoba)

“Water is a need and yes there is clean water, but we would like the ANC to bring it closer to us. So, we are not told that there are small volumes of water coming to the community. The only source of water is spring water from underground but we need a company that can channel that water to us because it’s enough. There is also water from the mountain that we use. Because we have water from underground, we can also make boreholes a source,” he said. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: KwaZulu-Natal set for fierce battle as four parties vie for votes in 2024 election

He noted that there were two bridges that could become a safety hazard if not fixed.

“We were once visited by [Minister of Higher Education] Blade Nzimande and we told him about these bridges. The issue is, they are made out of wooden blocks and are used by children who have to go to school. They collapse at any point and hurt our community.” 

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Ngcobo also mentioned that residents needed more support to stimulate agricultural projects in the area. 

“When we were growing up in Mafunze, we used to grow our own mielie meal and beans. We do have land to plant seeds and our land is fertile. The issue is [that] there is no clear demarcation so cattle can graze there whenever they want. So, we need our land to be divided properly,” he said. 

“We also have many competent small-scale farmers in the area. We need assistance from the Agriculture Department to ensure these farmers succeed. In winter their livestock is left without food and this needs to be corrected.” 

During hearings held by the South African Human Rights Commission in 2022, the municipality admitted some shortcomings, saying it was in contravention of the Water Services Act. It said the 660,000 residents of Msunduzi were entitled to be upset about water provision.

Read more in Daily Maverick: SAHRC — decades into democracy Pietermaritzburg can’t blame ageing infrastructure for water woes

Speaking in defence of the ANC on Tuesday, Thebolla, who has worn the mayoral chain since 2019, said fixing the community’s water woes was one of their main priorities, adding that they had arranged for temporary measures to be put in place to alleviate the problem. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: ANC crushes opposition in KZN with resounding Imbali victory, EFF and IFP trail with middling results

“The President was here to oversee the water project which is meant to deal with issues and it should be concluded by next year June. Because we know there is a water programme we have also committed a small amount towards boreholes. 

“We tried to generate water using a generator and it was taken, then we tried to have solar panels, people were stealing them, but this is not an excuse. We have a team we have dispatched on the ground to deal with this. We have a catchment where the JoJo tanks will use this water as a short- term solution,” he said. 

A resident of Ward 22 in Kwa Dambuza Msunduzi subregion shields herself from the scorching sun with an ANC T-shirt during Nomvula Mokonyane’s campaign visit on 7 May 2024. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

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Gogo Khanyisile Xulu of Ward 22 in Kwa Dambuza Msunduzi subregion receives an ANC T-shirt and a doek. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Roads and finances

As for the roads and bridges that are in bad condition, Thebolla said they would be fixed by summer.

This is despite the municipality being under administration in terms of Section 139 (1) (b) for more than five years, with recent news that it might no longer be required to be under administration.

The Msunduzi Municipality has been flagged by the Cooperative Governance Department for failing to take control of the city’s finances, a lack of consequence management, and failure to prevent irregular and unauthorised expenditure.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Strides made to rescue run-down Pietermaritburg, says mayor – financial viability still a monumental challenge

Just 20 minutes from Mfunze is Henryville, a semi-rural area with mostly dilapidated homes, housing families of up to seven people, not far from where Minister Nzimande grew up. 

The area has mostly mud houses that are barely furnished and inadequately fenced yards. 

msunduzi hlengwa

 Nomvula Mokonyane, First Deputy Secretary-General of the ANC, paid a visit to the home of Magdalene Hlengwa   on 7 May 2024 in Ward 22 Kwa Dambuza Msunduzi subregion in Pietermaritzburg. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Mokonyane, her team and a small group of ANC volunteers visited a number of homes, including that of Mama Magdalene Hlengwa. 

In her home, Hlengwa appeared to be expecting visitors and was wearing a traditional dress, a hat and pearls. 

Her home was run down, with kitchen walls substituted with different materials.

Read more in Daily Maverick: ANC silences eThekwini and southern KZN critics while IFP makes pronounced gains in provincial north

She smiled when the ANC delegation arrived, and recalled how tough conditions were in the apartheid era. “We used to have to find a place to hide when the police would come around. We have been part of the ANC for many years, even before you,” she said.

Mokonyane assured her that the ANC would help to fix her home, and also encouraged her to vote. 

 

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Nomvula Mokonyane presents a cow to the chief at the Mafunze Royal House in Pietermaritzburg. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Crime and GBV

Another problem in the area is crime, including the most notable incident in which eight people burnt to death in Pietermaritzburg in May 2023.

The previous month, 10 family members – eight women and two males, including a 14-year-old boy – were shot dead in a homestead massacre.

The rise in crime prompted MEC for economic development, tourism and environmental affairs and leader of government business, Siboniso Duma, to hold an imbizo at Imbali in 2023. 

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Police, family and neighbours gather after 10 people were shot dead in Imbali in April 2023. (Photo: Supplied)

Duma unveiled key interventions to curb the unprecedented rise in murder, rape, gender-based violence and femicide as well as the mushrooming narcotics trade and illegal liquor outlets.

A Henryville resident told Daily Maverick she feels residents are not safe. “There are people whose houses get broken into and we can barely get help because the police station is far. Most of the time women are being abused by their partners but we are unable to assist,” Memory Moyo said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: 2024 elections

Despite this, Moyo said she will still vote for the ANC. 

“It is better the devil you know. When another party comes to power we will not know what to expect,” she said. 

The Msunduzi Local Municipality, which forms part of the uMgungundlovu District, has 43.6% registered male voters, while the rest are women, who will potentially be casting their votes on 29 May. According to statistics released by the Independent Electoral Commission of South Africa ahead of the general elections, 354,539 people are registered to vote. DM

Daily Maverick’s Election 2024 coverage is supported, in part, with funding from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation and vehicles supplied by Ford.

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