Newcastle mayor to focus on job creation

THE newly inaugurated Newcastle mayor says his priorities are job creation, rural development and the provision of water and sanitation.

Afzul Rehman was officially sworn in yesterday.

He said his unanimous election was rewarding and showed the "extreme political maturity" the council has reached within the last few months.

He said this was noteworthy coming from an era of conflict and political turmoil.

Rehman has been acting mayor since the ANC won last year's bi-election.

"We have indeed become more aware of pressing needs of our community. Towns and municipalities around us are under attack because communities all over the country desperately require services."

He said while they cannot condone violent behaviour or tolerate it, they have to "bear in mind that, most of the time, they [residents] have valid complaints".

Rehman said his priorities were based on the party's lekgotla held last week to enhance service delivery in municipalities under their control.

"We focused on issues like job creation, housing, rural development, roads and storm water infrastructure, electricity and other government programmes."

He said they have seen a critical need for jobs in Newcastle.

"If our municipality advertises 25 menial general labourer positions, we receive 21474 applications. We have to, as a municipality, make certain that we will be creating an environment within our local economy to ensure that our business retention and expansion programme is working so that our businesses are able to thrive and create more jobs."

Rehman said they would be announcing a revised department of local economic development and empowering departments to meet the challenges. "We cannot wait forever for the district municipality to assist our people.

"We have to re-look at reviving agricultural projects, the revival of the power station and reopening of mines."

Rehman said he would also be announcing another portfolio in his executive committee.

"That portfolio is a councillor for rural development and service delivery where we will have a full-time executive committee member to politically oversee rural development and service delivery," he said.

"The list of challenges in our municipality is long. We have serious challenges and we require serious people."