Utrecht SA forges ties with Utrecht Netherlands

PICTURED, left to right, are MPAC chairperson Inus Dekker, deputy mayor Funonjani Chongo and mayor Mzwakhe Buthelezi. | Supplied

PICTURED, left to right, are MPAC chairperson Inus Dekker, deputy mayor Funonjani Chongo and mayor Mzwakhe Buthelezi. | Supplied

Published Feb 19, 2024


Durban — In an effort to revive Utrecht town and boost the local economy, Emadlangeni Local Municipality in the north-west of KwaZulu-Natal has forged ties with Utrecht City in the Netherlands.

The tiny town at the foot of the hill between Newcastle and the border of Mpumalanga province was named by the Dutch settlers in keeping with the memory of their city back home in The Netherlands. When you enter the town, you can see symbols of Dutch sandstone buildings.

Mayor Mzwakhe Buthelezi announced that his municipality has forged ties with Utrecht City in The Netherlands and there are exchange programmes that will benefit the town, especially in the tourism sector.

The mayor said the town already benefits from the annual gathering of Utrecht City citizens from The Netherlands who always come back to the town for a spiritual reconnection with their ancestors. This year’s event will take place on March 1.

“Now that we have managed to turn things around, which resulted in our first clean audit after many years, our focus is to revive the town and boost the local economy.

“Our economic driver is tourism, so with the ties we are forging with Utrecht City of The Netherlands, we are trying to draw more tourists to our town,” said the mayor.

As part of the town revival plan, the mayor said the council has set aside R9.5 million for the refurbishment of Balele Game Park, which will boost tourism. The R9.5m grant was reinstated by the Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs Department because of the successful turnaround strategy under mayor Buthelezi.

The IFP-led coalition under Buthelezi as mayor has been accredited for turning the corner in the municipality since taking over from the ANC in 2021.

Buthelezi said under the previous leadership, the municipality collapsed and was placed under administration. For too long, he said, the community endured the burden of dysfunctionality, facing strategic and operational malfunctions that impeded the municipality’s ability to deliver essential services.

“Governance structures faltered, administrative stability wavered, and the repercussions were felt deeply in our community as service delivery suffered. Grant funders withdrew their support, exacerbating the strain on our municipality and leaving our citizens in dire need. Yet, in the face of adversity, we refused to succumb to despair.

“With a shared vision, the municipality across departments, embarked on a journey of renewal and revitalisation. We committed ourselves to restoring functionality to our governance structures, ensuring compliance with legislative obligations and fostering a culture of accountability and transparency. Dare I say, it was not an easy journey but one that had to happen … and it did,” said the mayor.

He also announced that since the new council took over, it has finished many projects that were left unfinished by the previous leadership. The municipality’s successful turnaround strategy has resulted in the withdrawal of the administrator by the Department of Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta).

The municipality also shone at Cogta’s Municipal Excellence Awards scooping three awards – second Best Performing Municipality on Expanded Public Works Programme, second Best Local Municipality Community Programme and third Best Ward Committees In Terms of Functionality.

The 45 000-population municipality has only 11 seats. The IFP and ANC both have four seats, while the EFF, DA and NFP have one each. Despite the NFP’s working relationship with the ANC in the province, its councillor chose to work with the IFP and the DA to govern the municipality.

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