The flight of businesses from CBDs in the province as a result of rampant crime (Mercury, July 26) should be seen as an opportunity to reconfigure municipal boundaries.
Economic decentralisation has long been the trend as far as shops and shopping is concerned. Customers seek convenience and safety which crowded inner-city locations in Durban and Pietermaritzburg cannot provide. Excessive crime in those places is simply the tipping point in forcing businesses to pursue the relocation of the money trail to malls further afield which are much easier to secure against criminal elements than the busy inner-city matrix of streets and lanes.
Malls like Galleria, Arbor Crossing, Pavilion, Hillcrest, Gateway and Cornubia underline the reality to which economic power has decentralised and evolved. As such, those hubs constitute revenue bases that can incentivise a reversion to smaller municipalities.
Attempts to address the crime menace by deploying corporate security and private patrols in CBDs, whilst well-intentioned, are unlikely to succeed in persuading customers to return. Besides, the economic downside of such measures would see costs passed onto customers.
The blunt reality is that eThekwini metro is failing in every respect. The fact that it cannot control crime in the CBD is no different from its inability to diminish the theft of water and electricity. The blunt reality is that the CBD is not an investment attraction because of crime and grime.
But areas such as Amanzimtoti, Hillcrest and Umhlanga which have established profitable shopping malls, have become investment destinations. If they were to revert to being independent municipalities as they were before eThekwini metro swallowed them up, they could offer competitive rates and services which would stimulate broad economic growth.
Across the country, bloated municipalities and metros are proving to be inefficient and dysfunctional. By reverting to smaller, sustainable municipalities as the Freedom Front Plus advocates, governance and service delivery would improve along with effective control of crime. Investors and businesses should see the scourge of crime as a catalyst to champion the re-establishment of smaller municipalities because in economic terms, less is more.
Sent into The Mercury and published, July 29, 2019.