Perspectives from the MEC of the KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs

The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs (EDTEA) supports the Vuthela Programme with programme administration. In this article, KZN MEC for EDTEA, Siboniso Duma, shares perspectives on local economic development (LED) challenges and successes in the province and the role and impact of the Vuthela Programme in the iLembe district, through the lens of EDTEA’s partnership.

What is your critical assessment of the role of partnerships between the government and private sector?

In local economic development, partnerships between the government and the private sector are key. The Vuthela iLembe LED Support Programme demonstrated that public policy must work alongside the private sector.

The Programme helped in making the planning and the delivery of soft and infrastructural projects both faster and better. Despite the reasonable success of the partnerships in the Vuthela iLembe LED Support Programme, there is a need to assess and confront the difficulties in the performance of multi-stakeholder collaborations at every stage of the contract for ease of implementation and future lessons.

What do you see as the key constraints holding back the economy in KZN province from attaining growth?

KZN’s limited participation in international trade holds back the growth of the KZN economy. The province has not robustly taken advantage of its potential sectors and value chains such as those in agriculture, forestry and mining in order to massify its export capabilities thereby growing an economy that creates jobs.

The traditional manufacturing anchor industries in KZN have been left to either close down or not grow at all e.g. Clothing Industry, Chicken Farming, Shoe Manufacturing firms and others. That new manufacturing industries have not been established has not helped in growing the KZN economy.

Moreover, other challenges confronting the success of economic development in the KZN province entail a lack of local government capacity for implementation, inadequate funding for LED, weak development institutions, lack of effective planning methodologies and failure to manage participation at the local level. This is where the Vuthela model provided an intentional intervention thereby supporting local government to facilitate development.

Do you think the model of a multi-disciplinary intervention such as the Vuthela Programme may be a useful model to address other challenges in the province?

The model brought together international experts, all three spheres of government, private sector consultancy services and development experts to contribute to providing technical assistance in the delivery of a special economic development programme. In other words, the Programme created a platform for various actors to collaborate and cooperate in pursuit of economic development.

From the Vuthela experience, the model has the potential to contribute towards maximising the efficiency of place-based economic development strategies and their implementation.

Arguably, a model resembling that of the Vuthela Programme can play a meaningful role in locality development albeit any replication for such should be influenced by context realities.

What do you think are the key lessons, both good and bad, that have come from the Vuthela Programme experience in iLembe?

Ongoing strategic conversations and adaptation are necessary in development – when the province was hit by the disasters (floods, social unrest and Covid-19), the Programme had to play a role in supporting government towards rebuilding the economy. This was a role that was not envisaged when the Programme was mooted. It must be pointed out that the Programme could have allowed more flexibility to intervene directly in supporting the SMMEs.

Building project management capacity – the Programme helped build skills to:

  • Manage projects with confidence;
  • Avoid dangerous shortcuts and omissions;
  • Monitor risks and correct trouble spots; and
  • Put together a solid team and effective documentation.

Leveraging of funding – the Programme assisted in pooling resources together to plan for infrastructural development and to unlock economic opportunities within a short space of time. The Programme was funded using donor funding combined with local government finances.

Infrastructural planning and public finance management – the Programme elevated the significance of planning for development infrastructure such as water and electricity among others. In the conventional LED practices by municipalities planning for infrastructure would be a function for the Technical Department which happens in isolation to LED. The same can be said with Public Finance which is a function performed in isolation from LED. This Programme instilled the notion of a holistic view of LED implementation.


MEC of the KZN Department of Economic Development, Tourism and Environmental Affairs, Siboniso Duma