A BITTER FEUD has ensued between the Ulundi Local Municipality in the heart of Zululand and the Provincial Department of Health over the lack of adequate municipal services in the area.
At the centre of the schism is a recent proposal by MEC for Health in KZN Nomagugu Simelane-Zulu, who announced during her budget speech vote that a state-of-the-art health facility was earmarked for King Cetshwayo District.
The recent COVID-19 outbreak exposed the health crises endured by residents of the rural district as the health system is severely constrained to deal with any eventualities should the virus spiral out of control.
The shortage of hospitals with latest health technology forces the villagers and the surrounding poor communities to travel hundreds of kilometres to seek specialised healthcare, only available in public hospitals in Durban.
However, Ulundi Local Municipality mayor Wilson Ntshangase has slated the move, saying compared to appalling standard of health in the Zululand district, King Cetshwayo was better off.
“UMhlathuze already has two public hospitals and all crucial government departments and services are concentrated in the district. These hospitals situated in the district offer uMhlathuze area medical interventions that are not available to the so-called black areas situated in the further north of KwaZulu-Natal. The MEC for health makes this announcement while uMhlathuze enjoys government funded facilities available in Empangeni such as the University of Zululand, a university campus in Richards Bay and other government facilities within the same municipality, to name but a few,” complained Ntshangase.
He said half of the health budget by Simelane-Zulu has concentrated on the KwaZulu Natal north coast and left the far-flung areas of Zululand in a state of despair.
“All these historically impoverished black areas are still languishing in destitute and exclusion. In fact, since the dawn of democracy these areas have never known any meaningful development funded by government. This means our government for more than 25 years into democracy continues to perpetuates the Group Areas Act and eco geographical phenomenon in which all proper upmarket government investments was set aside for areas where white people live,” added Ntshangase.
Asked for comment, Simelane-Zulu refused to be drawn into the said Ulundi Local Municipality grievance and instead said uMhlathuze district was central and would also cover the health needs of the residents within Zululand.
“It’s very difficult to satisfy everyone all at once. We do however have other projects which we will deliver in the entire northern KZN including areas under the Zululand district,” she said.
The views by Ntshangase were also echoed by Ubunye Bamahostela, an organisation representing hostel dwellers in KwaZulu-Natal.
“The problem we have in South Africa is that government of the day treats villagers as sub humans. This situation forces rural dwellers to migrate from their places of birth to hostels and the nearest towns and cities for a better life. This leads to a fierce competition for resources and living space and fuels hostel wars. If government was to adopt a strategy of developing rural areas, this will stop the influx of people to cities,” said Zwelisha Nzuza, speaking on behalf of the organisation.
He cited the removal of provincial legislature administration from Ulundi to Pietermaritzburg as an unnecessary blunder by the ANC government.
“This was a political move which destroyed people’s livelihoods – these are desperate people who were employed by the legislature. Old women who managed stalls in the vicinity of the legislature also lost their source of income,” said Nzuza.
In 2004, Ulundi was stripped off its status as the capital of the province following the ANC’s successful election victory.
This was the historic victory for the ANC as it won the province once dominated by the IFP for the first time. Shortly after that, the ruling party announced Pietermaritzburg under the uMgungundlovu district as the new provincial legislative seat.
(Compiled by Inside Metros staff)