Project to wake up Durban’s inner city
International recognition for transformation plans Life is soon to be a beach in the holidays
THE city of Durban’s plan to transform the inner city has been recognised globally. This week, Durban became the first African city to win the International Society of City and Regional Planners award for excellence.
Durban’s city spatial vision and regeneration strategy, which seeks to turn the city into a live, work and play environment, is what secured the recognition ahead of Chinese, Belgian and Singaporean cities that were also vying for the honour.
Zakhi Mkhize, 36, the inner city local area plan project manager, is spearheading the project.
She says she and her team first looked at how best they could regenerate the city, a plan was devised and it was then approved by council.
About entering the competition, Mkhize says Durban was initially among 16 nominees and that number was whittled down to four.
“The best part of it all is that we are the only and the first African country to receive this recognition.”
The CBD’S reputation of being a sleeping city will soon be a thing of a past, she says.
“As you can see, the inner city is in a state of decay, so our programme is to turn it around to make it more vibrant.
“We want to make it an investor-friendly environment. Currently, the city sleeps at 6pm, which means that is when shops and offices close and people leave.
“When the functional part of the city sleeps, it becomes a crime haven,” says Mkhize.
The award gives the city officials an opportunity to work with experts from the International Society of City and Regional Planners’ urban planners advisory team, who will be visiting Durban next year.
The international experts will bring their knowledge and experience to share with local planners in a bid to regenerate the inner city.
As part of their inner-city regeneration strategy, Mkhize and her team are working on ways of easing congestion in the CBD, which is the result of informal trading and the influx of cars and taxis.
“The current state of traffic in the city, which is car dominated, doesn’t invite people to walk the streets of the CBD, and taxis operators trying to draw commuters add to the chaos.
“We need to invest in strategies to limit car congestion on our main streets like Pixley ka Seme (formerly West) and Anton Lembede (Smith) and invest in walkable, friendly streets by providing lanes for cycling,” says Mkhize.
“Since we are living in a warm city, we need to invest in greening the environment so that people are able to walk on shaded pavements and walkways.
“Making sure our pavements are better utilised and not dominated by informal trade, which is not organised, is another goal,” she says.
“Yes, we understand informal trade is part of South African life, but we need to rationalise and place it in strategic points to make sure it provides a service and is not causing a hindrance, and is in line with the new urban agenda for the CBD.
“We are planning to rationalise the informal trade and provide appropriate facilities.”
Mkhize, who holds a master’s degree in town and regional planning from the University of Kwazulu-natal, says turning people’s lives for the better and making sensible changes is what she loves most about her job.
“Planning leaves a footprint socially and economically and as a planner it always feels good to point at a project and say I conceptualised that,” she says. THE summer holidays are an important time for the local tourism industry and Durban’s beaches are usually a favourite destination for tourists.
During this season the tourism sector receives a huge injection of cash which usually runs into millions.
With the festive season around the corner, City Watch checked the readiness of some of Durban’s popular beaches (North and South beaches) on the Golden Mile.
The swimming pools contained deposits of sand and litter after the storm that devastated Durban recently.
The most common problems for visitors to this area were the litter and drinking in public. Police were patrolling during City Watch’s visit.
Toilets were clean and tidy, toilet paper was available and the hand-wash soap dispensers were operational.
Some of the shower taps didn’t work.
Lifeguards were present.
Apart from a faulty sand pump that was also damaged during the recent storm, all facilities at this beach were in good working condition and had an attendant in the bathroom, to ensure all was well. Most showers worked. The toilets were in good condition and stocked with toilet paper and the soap dispensers worked.
Lifeguards were present and monitoring bathers.
A lifeguard, who worked at South Beach and asked not to be named, said sexual harassment, litter and theft were common incidents reported on the beach. He encouraged parents who wished to take their children to the beach to avoid busy days. The lifeguard added that they were already dealing with large crowds on the weekends, but the number of lifesavers was increased during the festive season.
Andrew Sutherland, chairman of the Durban Surf Lifesaving Club, which voluntarily assisted with lifesaving services on weekends and during holidays, said they send 12 qualified members for beach duty during the holidays. They also had a reserve squad to assist, if required.
“We have been offering this service for years. We are based at North Beach, but are flexible to move to other beaches to ensure the safety of our visitors,” he added.
In preparation, the city announced it would close parts of South Beach to begin sand pumping operations as part of routine maintenance to ensure safe beaches that residents and tourists could enjoy.
NOTICE ethekwini Engineering Unit’s Coastal, Stormwater and Catchment Management (CSCM) Department closed off portions of Suncoast Beach, Bay of Plenty and Dairy Beach on Thursday to allow for sand pumping operations for three weeks. During this operation, bathing will not be allowed in the closed off areas.
During the process, the sand from south of the harbour is dredged and transferred to other beaches through sand pumping operations.
Sand pumping is part of the core functions of the CSCM Department. ethekwini Municipality spokesperson Tozi Mthethwa said the city took pride in the maintenance of the beaches and it was important they were ready for the holidays. She added it was committed to providing a cost-effective, environmentally sustainable coastal stormwater and catchment management system.
Durban central beaches are artificially supported by sand pumping operations by the CSCM Department. There is a severe shortage of sand on the beaches, which will be closed for sand replenishment.
As a result, the protection of municipal infrastructure along this coastline has been compromised. If sand is not pumped onto these beaches, they may have to be closed for bathing, as the safety of bathers will be at risk.
Some of the swimming pools at South Beach remain dirty after the storm.
Zakhi Mkhize with the International Society of City and Regional Planners award for excellence.