Authors: M Mashiri, M Mokonyama, B Mpondo, J Chakwizira & D Mdunge

Keyword: economic growth, public transport, South Africa, Eastern Cape, Mthatha

SDG: SDG8, SDG11

Mthatha, located in King Sabata Dalindyebo Municipality (KSD) is a rapidly growing rural town. Its sphere of influence is geographically much wider than the administrative boundaries of KSD. Mthatha is thus a regional rural town servicing a hinterland characterised by significant structural problems that tend to impede rural communities from fully accessing services, resources, markets and information. In order for the regional rural development agenda to take root, the paper argues that KSD needs to carve out a pragmatic and proactive leading role for Mthatha in support of shared growth for KSD and the region. It further contends that KSD needs to nurture and accentuate the role of Mthatha as a regional centre offering not only higher order services, but also significant employment opportunities to a potential growth region underpinned by appropriate investment packages. Transportation necessarily plays a decisive role in this vanguard role for town. However, from a transportation perspective, the paper observes that poor planning for this growth has led to failure symptoms such as severe road traffic congestion, conflicting vehicle-pedestrian movements, increased number of uncoordinated small-scale freight vehicles and severe parking shortages. Productivity in Mthatha is thus negatively impacted by this ever-present congestion, exacerbated by road infrastructure conditions (it has been determined that 90% of Mthatha’s surfaced road network has deteriorated beyond pothole repair requirements especially in the central business district [CBD]). Thus circulation (and by extension doing business) within the CBD is decidedly cumbersome, while movement through town is interminable – generating a relatively significant carbon footprint for a town of its size. Using primary data collected in KSD between 2011 and 2012, this paper enumerates and assesses the transportation challenges impeding productivity in Mthatha with a view to determining the gaps in the current approach in terms of type and intensity of intervention options as a departure point for crafting a much more robust implementation framework. This framework will be underpinned by a transport model for the Mthatha (CBD). With a few modifications, the proposed model could be customized for other small towns in South Africa.