Shake-upfor dyingtowns in pipeline

RESIDENTS of Richmond, left in ruins after the intense mid-1990s political violence between the IFP, ANC and UDM, have welcomed efforts by the provincial government to rejuvenate the town.

The KwaZulu-Natal Midlands town had many of its leaders and residents killed, and others misplaced. Many houses and and businesses were destroyed and shops left unattended and derelict as owners fled.

The KwaZulu-Natal department of cooperative governance introduced the rehabilitation initiative with the aim of rekindling the economy of the rural town.

Richmond will not be the only rural town to benefit.

More than R55million has been set aside to rehabilitate "dying" towns including Richmond, Ixopo, Tugela Ferry, Inkandla, Jozini, Harding and Ladysmith.

Richmond municipality manager S'bu Sithole said they were excited. He said the effort would boost the local economy and attract more businesspeople to the town to create more jobs for the communities.

"We are facing huge challenges in these small towns. In Richmond we have shopping malls with empty shops because people believe that their business won't succeed if they come here," Sithole said.

The rural town has a 40 percent unemployment rate with a population of 26 000. With an estimated budget of R83 million the municipality is unable to respond quickly to community needs.

"We are aware that we cannot create jobs for all our population but the initiative will have a big impact. We are grateful for the initiative. With the little money we have we are unable to fix our drainages and roads," Sithole said.

Provincial MEC Nomusa Dube last week said the upgrading of the towns would take the form of rehabilitation of roads and storm water drains.