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The National Minister for the Department of Cooperative and Traditional Affairs, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma has called on local municipalities to prioritise development in rural areas. Dlamini-Zuma was speaking in Kokstad recently during the launch of the Eastern Seaboard Programme.

Adding to her speech she called on the Harry Gwala District Municipality leaders to be decisive when dealing with poverty issues.

The programme is in line with the District Development Modelthat co-ordinates all three spheres of government to integrate

development plans and capacity to fast-track infrastructural development in rural areas. The aim is to create job opportunities and to enhance the

rural economy.

The programme prioritises the inclusion of women, youth and people living with disabilities in development and economic opportunities.

It also pushes coordination and promotes working together in the advancement of the ocean economy and other economic opportunities by

coastal district municipalities namely; uGu, Harry Gwala, OR Tambo and Alfred Nzo District Municipalities.

“I will speak here as a citizen who grew up here and will be buried here and as a Minister. I put this burden upon you as local leaders to prioritise rural communities and be stronger than the challenges our government is facing,” Dlamini-Zuma said.

She urged the leaders to live and breathe the legacy of the late Harry Gwala, “who worked hard and sacrificed his life for the people even

during the dark days of apartheid ”.

“It is quite exciting to speak for the first time in front of you not through zoom meetings but on the land named after the Griqua leader, Adam

Kok III [Kokstad] the tribe [Griquas] that suffered a lot of dispossession, added Dlamini-Zuma.” She said the three districts — Harry She said the three districts — Harry Gwala, OR Tambo and Alfred Nzo —were among the 10 poorest districtsin the country, which was why they needed to complement one another and not compete. She said their co-ordinating roleas  Cogt a is meant to promote socioeconomicdevelopment in every municipality. She said: “It is important to developrural areas so that people who livehere go to urban areas out of choice,not through the impression that urbanthat urbanareas have all the opportunities.” KwaZulu-Natal Premier Sihle Zikalala echoed the same sentiments, emphasising the inclusion of women,emphasising the inclusion of women,youth and people living withdisabilities in the programme. Harry Gwala District Mayor ZamoHarry Gwala District Mayor ZamoNxumalo has endorsed and givensupport to the initiative and proposedthat the Premier revives the VukuzakheDevelopment Programme, whichhe said played a significant role indeveloping local businesses and ruralareas.

Nxumalo said they have taken aresolution to tar rural roads to cutmaintenance costs since gravel roadsoften required maintenance afterheavy rains. The Greater KokstadMunicipal Mayor, Cllr B.M Mtoloacknowledged the fact that thelaunch was in his area, meaning eventhough they are a small town but theirexistence and hard work is highlyrecognised by one of the highestoffices in government.