The newly-formed Raymond Mhlaba Municipality will rope in academics from the University of Fort Hare (UFH) to boost the capacity of its committees in a bid to fast-track service delivery in the area.
This emerged during a report-back session on Friday at UFH’s Alice campus, to mark the first 100 days in office of the new council – which came into being following the merger of the Nkonkobe and Nxuba local municipalities after the August 3 local government elections.
Mayor Bandile Ketelo said his municipality was grappling with a huge problem of unemployment – which sits at over 40%, way more than the national unemployment rate of 27%.
The municipality is made up of the rural towns of Alice, Seymour, Fort Beaufort, Hogsback and Middledrift.
Youth unemployment is even worse, with about 60% of young people being without jobs.
Ketelo told the gathering that it was important for his council to assist young entrepreneurs to create jobs in the area.
“I want to tell the young people that there are no jobs…[they] should not expect to find jobs. It is up to them to create jobs. As a municipality we need to give as much support as possible to new entrepreneurs…so that they could create jobs,” he said.
The municipality, he said, would also ensure that preference was given to local suppliers and service providers so as to stimulate the local economy.
Ketelo admitted that while they had UFH on their doorstep, they had not done enough to use the available expertise from the institution. This, he vowed, would soon change.
“We have the expertise of the University of Fort Hare that we can tap into…as it is one of the foremost institutions in terms of agricultural research. We feel that we have not tapped as much as we can from the readily available expertise within our area. We want to channel a lot of people to focus on agriculture,” said Ketelo.
Another plan, he said, was to involve the university’s experts in the municipality’s standing committees on an advisory role.
“The university has…expertise that we don’t have in the municipality…we need to discuss as exco whether it would not be appropriate for us, if the law permits, to have some of the expertise of this university serving in some of the standing committees of council…to make sure we tap into this kind of resource that we have locally.
“There is a lot of willingness from both parties to get together because we do have a seat in the university council and in the senate. There is already fertile ground for this kind of cooperation,” said Ketelo.
The area is also rich in history and this was one of the areas, said the mayor, that the municipality needed to exploit.
On Friday, Ketelo also launched the Masicoce campaign which is aimed at cleaning up the towns and encouraging local communities to recycle.