Assessing the capacity of Mbombela Local Municipality to drive local economic development initiatives.
Mashiteng, Mapule Mirriam Gugu.
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The study focused on assessing the capacity of Mbombela Local Municipality to drive Local Economic Development (LED) initiatives. LED serves as an instrument with which local government or community-based organisations engage to stimulate or maintain business activity and/or employment. Mbombela Local Municipality is the capital of the province of Mpumalanga and is a regional centre catering for people as far as Bushbuckridge in the north, Mozambique (Maputo) in the east, Swaziland (Mbabane) in the southeast and Lydenburg in the west. The municipality is home to 588, 794 inhabitants according to census 2011 data. Surrounded by mostly rural municipalities within the Ehlanzeni District and the province, the municipality is challenged to put in place an effective LED programme to handle the influx of many unemployed people. This is exacerbated by the failure of the local economy to attract investment, create employment opportunities, and produce goods for trading in international markets amongst others. The study followed a qualitative research method wherein purposive sampling was used to identify and select participants who were interviewed face-to-face. The data was thematically analysed to interpret the findings. The study found that Mbombela Local Municipality was well structured compared to other municipalities of its size, however the LED function was not sufficiently elevated at managerial and leadership level resulting in the overshadowing of the unit. This was also compounded by the insufficiency of financial resources to support LED programmes, weak intergovernmental relations with the district, provincial and national spheres of government, poor engagements and involvement of the stakeholders in municipal LED programmes. In-depth understanding and support of the municipal leadership in championing the municipality’s LED trajectory has been found to be crucial for the achievement of the intended results. Key recommendations of the study include stakeholder mobilisation and involvement right from the planning phase through to implementation. Through such engagements, much needed investments would be attracted to the city, resulting in the Municipality being a regional economic powerhouse from whom neighboring towns, provinces and countries could benefit. The multiplier effect of heightened economic activity in the city would be employment opportunities, skills development, investment attraction, socio-economic development, all of which are the intended outcomes of effective LED initiatives.