OPINION | Post November 1, the ANC in Vhembe will hit the ground running
On Monday, South Africans will go to the polls to elect local governments of their choice throughout the country. In doing so, we will continue to consolidate the democratic project and move the country further away from our apartheid past.
In the Vhembe region, as with elsewhere in the country, the ANC is contesting the elections on a platform of building viable and prosperous localities for all.
The ANC will continue to enhance local government capacity in all municipalities in the region, plug local economies into national and international economic arteries in a purposeful manner and further strengthen democracy at local level.
Improving service delivery is a priority for any municipality and this is a function of capacity inasmuch as it is about economics. For this reason, the ANC in Vhembe will address institutional capacity challenges, keep expenditure within the means of municipalities and create new sources of revenue by growing local economies.
We will engage professional bodies such as the engineering, accounting and other professions, universities resident in the province and others across the country for advice and measures to improve institutional capacity at the political and administrative levels.
Over and above this, our councillors and municipal officials will be encouraged to take their personal development seriously.
On the economic front, many of our municipalities boast a competitive advantage in sectors such as tourism, light industries, agriculture and food processing, mining, transport and logistics. Efforts will be undertaken to develop these sectors optimally.
Vhembe is one of the most beautiful parts of the country. Its verdant landscapes and rich biodiversity are some of the most picturesque in the southern African region.
In the summer months, a low cloud covers the Soutpansberg mountains like a gigantic white blanket, occasionally permitting but rocky protrusions on the mountain top. It is a sight to behold.
The Kruger and Mapungubwe national parks are found in this region. So is the Sagole Baobab, a 3000-year-old mammoth which boasts a trunk diameter of 10.47m and circumference of 32.89m. The region shares three international borders — Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Botswana — a uniqueness shared by no other region in the country.
Very few places in the world offer as many tourist destinations as this part of the country. To a large measure, because we have thus far not done enough to market the region, our compatriots and citizens of the world are yet to discover Vhembe.
This is about to change. Our municipalities will immediately elaborate development plans which also seek to boost investment in tourism and develop the wider economy.
Vhembe is steeped in history, too. It is home to the seat of Makhado's kingdom, the 19th century patriotic king who fought and defeated the early colonisers before he succumbed to food poisoning in September 1895. To the northeast of Makhado's headquarters are the Dzata ruins, built in 1700 as part of a network of African empires such as Mapungubwe and Great Zimbabwe, which facilitated the earliest processes of nation and state formation.
The ANC in Vhembe is keenly aware that to develop and impact positively on the lives of the people, rural economies must move beyond the primary sector. We will increase the momentum in the development of light industries and take advantage of opportunities that will be made possible by the coming into being of the Musina-Makhado Special Economic Zone to launch fully fledged industries.
A largely agricultural region, Vhembe can be a centre of food processing for domestic consumption and for export. It already has a nascent small-scale dried fruit processing industry, macadamia oil production and other products.
Much more can be done. A not insignificant tonnage of fruit produce, especially in the most rural areas, still goes to waste. The ANC will engage stakeholders about how to minimise and eventually eliminate such wastage and the development of appropriate local incentives to support entrepreneurs in order to stimulate employment and overall development.
A potentially massive investment we believe the three spheres of government should urgently consider is the construction of a dry port to ease congestion at the Beitbridge border post. The economic spin-off from such an initiative could be enormous and long lasting.
All our initiatives will be premised on a strong and thriving local democracy. We will therefore enhance local legislatures and governments’ interaction with residents by systematising consultative processes.
Working together with traditional leaders, we will strive to develop consensus on how individual and collective development initiatives can be optimised to create postapartheid rural settlements that create sustainable local economies. In short, the ANC in Vhembe will make sure that municipalities hit the ground running in building better communities with the people after November 1.
— Muḓunungu is regional secretary of the Vhembe ANC region and a candidate for the Makhado local municipality.