Building bridges between communities

King Cetshwayo District Municipality is making great strides forward


Development and service delivery are at the top of King Cetshwayo District Mayor Nonhle Mkhulisi’s list of priorities. Committed to improving the socio-economic conditions of the people of the district, Mkhulisi has presided over a number of impressive strides forward since her inauguration in 2017. An early measure of success was the smooth incorporation of Ntambanana Municipality into the municipalities of uMhlathuze, Mthonjaneni and uMfolozi, a process that was closely managed by the district-run Change Management Committee. However, much more work is to come.

A category C municipality located in north-eastern KwaZulu-Natal, King Cetshwayo District Municipality (formerly known as uThungulu) covers an area of 8000 square kilometers, from the agricultural town of Gingindlovu in the south, to the Umfolozi River in the north and inland to the mountainous beauty of rural Nkandla. This paradoxical district comprises the best and worst of the two economies of this country.

“We are home to several of the largest industrial giants in the world, the retail sector in our urban areas is burgeoning with economic activity, the agricultural and tourism potential is boundless and there are ever-increasing opportunities for local economic development,” says Mkhulisi.

“On the other hand, crippling droughts and deep rural communities living in abject poverty are also strong characteristics of the King Cetshwayo district, with a backlog of water and sanitation service delivery topping our list of priorities.

“The challenge is to provide basic services such as water and sanitation to these people while stimulating local economic development, job creation and the growth of the small and medium business sector. The need to address poverty is one of the most critical issues. The municipality enjoys good relations with the business sector and non-governmental organizations.”

Surmounting service delivery

Faced with an extended period of drought, communities are struggling to survive on water tanker deliveries and water shortages in many rural areas. However, Mkhulisi is undaunted.

“We have worked tirelessly to introduce the interventions which we put in place to ensure the supply of water to the communities who depend on us for service delivery. These include the drilling of boreholes, spring protection in areas where natural springs exist, linking of weirs and small dams to larger reservoirs to supply small towns, and de-sludging of dams.”

The district is further characterized by large infrastructure backlogs, especially water and sanitation, mainly in the rural areas. It’s a titanic struggle to overcome, but Mkhulisi focuses on the positive:

“We have achieved phenomenal success in the eradication of our backlogs in the past 10 years. Our water backlogs have decreased from 81% to 26.1% between 2001 and now. We have connected 87,102 households with water between 2001 – 2018. Over 107197 households have been provided with sanitation facilities from 2001-2017. Finally, at uMfolozi, Mthonjaneni, Nkandla and Ntambanana, KCDM is planning and implementing infills.”

Radical economic transformation

Fast-tracking inclusive economic development is an important focus area for the District. Currently the accent is on agriculture, with the King Cetshwayo Fresh Produce Market (KCFPM) at Ngwelezane, Empangeni, being selected as a pilot for programme for Radical Agrarian Socio-Economic Transformation Model (RASET).

“RASET will ensure meaningful participation of PDIs in the food value chain,” says Mkhulisi. “The criterion used was the strategic location to eThekwini and King Cetshwayo and agriculture potential to complement the two districts.”

Farmers on communal land are helped in a number of ways.

“The farmers are supplied with seeds to plant in their communal land as well as garden tools for use during the planting stage. Follow ups are made in monitoring the status of the produce until it is ready for purchase by KCFPM in supporting the Nutritional Programme for the Department of Education within the district. Different trainings are conducted in educating the farmers with different skills pertaining to the plantation of different crops seasonally. Farmers are also trained on the value chain so that they become aware of business opportunities related to agricultural produce,” explains Mkhulisi.

In addition to RASET, the Department of Planning and Economic Development has undertaken to implement various agricultural support projects and programmes within the District in the 2018/2019 financial year in order to support farmers and increase participation in the agricultural sector.

“Agriculture remains a critical vehicle for economic growth, job creation and food security as envisaged in the National Development Plan and the District Growth and Development Plan,” says Mkhulisi. “It is important to continually provide information to the farmers within the district to be able to tap into the changing environment in order to continue being productive in the land.”

A flagship district agricultural initiative is the revival of the Amakha Essential Oils Project in Mfolozi Local Municipality, intended to create a Rose Geranium production value chain.

“Amakha intends to produce and process organic Rose Geranium essential oils on site and sell them to buyers for international market consumption while adding further value to the oils for cosmetic and aromatherapy products for various consumers in the cosmetic, aromatherapy and detergents value chain. The use of essential oils is not limited to room refreshing, repellant, massage, bath skin care, general body care, and so on,” Mkhulisi elaborates.

Initially 50 hectares will be established, ultimately expanding to 80 hectares. Primary herb production and oil extraction distillation will take place on site. Promoting the commercial productivity of the farm will contribute immensely towards the local economy and life improvement of company members, staff, and the surrounding community.

Amakha aims to create 60 permanent jobs and 50 casual jobs and thus 110 jobs will be created by the enterprise at this 50ha start-up phase.

Mkhulisi lists the factors contributing to the sustainability of the project: “The project will be sustainable because the beneficiaries have shown interest and have experience in the agribusiness, their former commodities and their essential oils journey. Essential oils is a priority sector in the country’s developments initiatives as it was previously white dominated. The climate conditions where the project is situated are good. Essential oils are resilient to various climatic conditions. Oils will be sold directly to the international buyer, Scatters Oils. The EDTEA has funded the project with R2.8 million and there are other potential funders. Moreover, enough land is available in the district to expand essential oil production to other local municipalities.”

Enabling small business

Provincial Government has identified maritime as a priority economic sectors. In line with this, the District has adopted the Maritime Strategy developed by the Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental affairs (EDTEA), and is implementing a Maritime Incubation Programme in collaboration with the Kwa Zulu Natal Sharks Board Maritime Centre of Excellence and the EDTEA.

“This structured incubation programme will entail business training, mentorship, guidance and business support, which will result in the establishment of ten new maritime enterprises,” says Mkhulisi. “The target is previously disadvantaged women, youth and disabled individuals from all municipalities within King Cetshwayo District.”

Twelve qualifying candidates entered the pre-incubation training phase which ran from 26 March to 8 June 2018. They now have 11 prospective maritime ventures and have considered forming a consortium of 100% black-owned ventures from King Cetshwayo District Municipality.

The different maritime intervention areas that they have ventured into include a floating restaurant, stevedoring, the Naval Island Annual Jazz Festival, aquaculture, coastal marine waste management, ship agent, customer clearing and forwarding, warehouse and cold storage, maritime construction and maintenance, maritime tour operating and ship chandlering.

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