The Durban International Convention Center hosted the Shape Durban discussions around ideas on how to make the city a liveable, safe and properly functioning city within a five year growth and development plan.

With representatives present from across every sector, it meant that steps in the right direction were to be made in ensuring that goals are achieved.

The conference began with a panel discussion on what was needed to improve conditions in the city for people who live and work in it, to those who migrate here from across South Africa to those from the opposite sides of the borders. The panel was chaired by Palesa Philli (CEO Durban Chamber), Terry Rosenburg (Chairman of Multiply Group), Dondo Nogajane (Director General for National Treasury), Phillip Sithole (Deputy City Manager) and Mandisa Ntombela (Global Shapers- Durban Hub). With a panel as diverse as this, it showed a clear commitment from all sectors of government and society.

These speakers all shared what their roles are in this vast spectrum and what it means to them personally and in their mandates in their respective portfolios, of just what it means to “Shape Durban.”  DG, Sithole touched on the importance of bringing business into the city.  He made it clear that by making the city investment attractive, this would ensure employment growth within the city, hence changing the lives of the less fortunate.  Philli reiterated the commitment from the Chamber in bringing networks and forging strong relationships between sectors, especially in regard to SMME growth and sustainablity.  “There is a willingness to co-operate with all partners to grow the city.  Ntombela reflected on the involvement of youth in these proceedings.  Her message was one of resilience from the youth with a passion and drive to ensure their basic needs are met.  She encouraged the youth, as well as partners not to give up in trying to get the voices of the youth heard.

The key issues that were raised during this discussion were regarding quality education, tailored skills development for youth and the marginalised society, access to basic needs to business setup like water and electricity.  Infrastructure development was popular amongst all sectors as many challenges came from lack of, or poor quality spaces for businesses to operate from in the CBD.  Access to internet and high data costs were a contentious talking point as without this basic service, it was difficult for the unemployed youth to gain access to opportunities posted on social media platforms.  It creates challenges for sending a curriculum vitae, just to be considered for employment.  SMME’s also expressed challenges in regard to just marketing their businesses or getting information around the access to their sectors.

Yes, with all acknowledgement that these issues were not unique or a new phenomenon, stakeholders’ said with renewed commitment from all sectors, these could be addressed and resolved over time.  With partnerships between all government departments working together bringing about a well-functioning organisation, linked to small and big business, corporates and the private sectors, positive growth across the city will be realised.

A topic not easy to bring up, is the issue around the economically marginalised part of society, namely the homeless.  This group was represented and expressed the challenges they faced in regard to discrimination, criminalisation by the police and no spaces for them to return to in the form of shelters in the city.  A young man poured his heart out in request for people to be more understanding when it comes to discrimination of their drug abuse.  Tebogo Mogopeng pleas for a rehabilitation centre.  “Being labelled for what you use just because people don’t understand what you’re going through as person, does not build you up, but instead makes it easier for you continue and further degenerate,” said Mogopeng.  It was at this breakaway session that people leaned that dislocation of the homeless does not solve the problem as many just find their way back.

The conclusion of the conference saw a commitment from city management to have continuous meetings in regard to strives made towards solutions on making Durban better for all.  Feedback will be made via the Edge and City Gazettes.  For success of this conference, we all need to actively Shape Dueban.



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