Buffalo City in the Eastern Cape province of South Africa has been considered as a young city mainly because many residents range in age from 20 to 29; one-fourth are between the ages of 10 and 19. It was also given status as a metro municipality in the year 2000 and includes the wards of Zwelitsha, Mdantsane, Duncan Village, Amanthole, King William’s Town, East London, and Bhisho. Buffalo City was chosen as the area’s name because of its proximity to Buffalo River.
The economic foundation for Buffalo City would be the manufacturing industry starting with top global companies like Daimler Chrysler, Nestle, Mercedes Benz, and Johnson & Johnson. Manufacturing companies, many of which are international firms, are in the pharmaceutical, food processing, healthcare, textile, furniture, packaging, and the consumer electronic industries. They have established their offices and factories in the East London Industrial Development Zone (the East London IDZ).
The East London IDZ
Just 2 months ago, the East London IDZ was the scene of another economic development for Buffalo City. The R80 million investment by Mercedes Benz South Africa and RG Brose will start churning out automotive components for the C-Class Mercedes Benz model. Starting with a work force of 80, the plan is to increase to 180 by the year 2017.
The city, the 6th largest in South Africa, also has the only river port in the country. It is little wonder that East London property has become a sought after investment commodity.
Why Buffalo City?
Aside from a mild climate and a young population made up of over 85% black South Africans, Buffalo City’s Bhisho is the provincial capital for the Eastern Cape. Being close to the seat of local government, it attracts tourism, investment, and immigrants from other provinces. The current population is estimated at almost 880 000, but 10% have no schooling and 4 out of every 10 persons are earning an income. The median income is approximately R 2655 per month, which is very close to the average income of a non-white South African family (R2 800 pm), although many are still way below subsistence levels at R1500 per month.
In spite of the lack of education and higher income opportunities, the residents of Buffalo City mostly seem happy and satisfied. Around 35% are in the process of acquiring their own homes using a loan or bond, and more than half have access to electricity. The most common concern for over 50% of the population is fear of contracting HIV or AIDS or having someone in their family contract the virus.
The municipality is run by the Buffalo City Municipal Council headed by the Executive Mayor. He is in charge of administrative, strategic as well as political plans during his term. Under his organization are 100 councillors, evenly divided between ward councillors and proportional representation councillors.
Ideally, the local government has to be void of corruption, provide social services, and promote employment – all in aid of economic growth and stability. Realistically, the local government has taken steps in trying to uplift the lives and income of its residents, mainly through new job creation, encouraging small to medium-sized businesses, and the IDZ.
Then there’s the usual controversies hounding the city and affecting the rest of the country. In 2011, one of the councillors of Buffalo City, Lance Weyer, joined the Mr Gay South Africa 2011 pageant. He won and it created a furore as he also holds an active position as a politician in a country where the rights of gays are in question. In a remarkable turn of events, Councillor Weyer appeared to turn his back on human rights in favour of his political career which earned the ire of some gay activists.
There have also been reports coming from the Institute of Securities Studies (ISS) that Buffalo City had the highest crime rate in South Africa in 2011. They quoted a figure of 56.1 murders out of 100 000 people. The ISS, however, clarified that the crime rate of the country has improved and that this figure for Buffalo City took them completely by surprise. According to the ISS, it could have been a result of an isolated series of incidents in 2011 because Buffalo City was never on the list of high crime municipalities of South Africa.