I love planning for the growth and development of our country and towns- Simphiwe Dube-Ntshingila

18 June 2024

Simphiwe Dube-Ntshingila is a Senior Physical Planning Officer in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. Among other duties, she is responsible for providing direction on land use and development within the country’s towns and cities. In our latest civil servants’ blog, she tells us about her work in urban planning.

Government Communication (GC): “When did you join the Civil Service?”

Simphiwe Dube-Ntshingila (SD): “I joined the Civil Service in November 2017.

GC: “What is your current job now and what does it entail?”

SD: “I am currently employed as the Senior Physical Planning Officer in the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. Under this portfolio, I head the Physical (spatial/town) Planning section. I am responsible for overseeing all spatial planning activities and issues throughout all the towns in the country. Duties under this portfolio focus on land use planning and management as well as the control of development through the use of various spatial planning tools/frameworks such as: national; regional and local spatial frameworks (e.g. Town Planning Schemes). These legislative tools and frameworks regulate and provide land use and development guidelines in specifying what land can be used for and how. The aim of these guides are to ensure the sustainable and efficient use of land whilst promoting environmental, economic and social welfare.”

GC: “Before this role, what other positions did you occupy in the Service?”

SD: “My current position is the first position I have held since joining the service. Before joining national government (civil service), I was employed in Local Government as a City Planner-Projects working for the Municipal Council of Mbabane, where I served for a period of 5 years.”

GC: “So far, what would you say the biggest highlight/achievement of your Civil Service journey has been?”

SD: “One of my biggest highlights/achievements in my Civil Service journey is that of facilitating for Government to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with the United Nations Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) which is a United Nations agency mandated to support sustainable urbanisation across the globe. This was an outcome achieved from attending one of the UN Habitat conferences which was held in Nairobi in June 2023, whereby engagements were held with the Director, Regional Office for Africa. This engagement resulted in the subsequent first official visit to the country by the Director and further signing of the agreement for collaboration between Government and the UN-Habitat.

This relationship is still ongoing and many activities are being planned in collaboration with the regional office for Africa for further programme implementation for the development of inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable cities and communities in line with achieving the SDGs. One of the activities in the pipeline in this regard is the establishment of a local UN-Habitat office in the country which will bring forth many opportunities for Eswatini in the sustainable development space.”

GC: “What is the biggest project that you have been involved in working for Government?”

SD: “One of the biggest projects of my civil service career is a current project that I am spearheading which is the review of the Town Planning Act of 1961. This legislation is outdated and numerous challenges were encountered whilst undertaking spatial planning activities. The updated legislation will be in line with international standards and requirements and will provide for improved operations in the field of Spatial Planning. The target is to have this legislation finalised and approved by the end of this financial period (2024/25).  

Another key project/programme was the facilitation of Eswatini joining the international community in the commemoration of World Town Planning Day which is commemorated on the 8th November each year. In 2021, the first commemorative event was arranged where Town Planning professionals in the country got an opportunity to discuss issues relating to our field. A committee was set up to work towards the official establishment of a Town Planners Association which would be able to address, promote and protect the work and interests of town planning professionals in the country. I was elected and have been serving as the Vice Chairperson of the organisation which has been officially registered as the Eswatini Town Planners Association. Since 2021, Eswatini has been participating in the commemoration of this day.”

GC: “What goes into the recognition of a place as a town or city by your Ministry?”

SD: “Various indicators are used prior to any area being considered for declaration as a town or city. These include issues such as population, land tenure (type of land ownership/title), development trends and growth being experienced in certain areas. Other criteria include the services offered by the area and functional role it plays in relation to its surrounding areas. In the country, we also have a tool used to control areas identified as requiring development control due to development trends being seen/experienced. The Ministry declares these areas as controlled areas, which means that development within the jurisdiction declared is now controlled by the Ministry and requires Ministerial approval. Examples of controlled areas are Mhobodleni in Manzini and Magindaneni in Nhlangano.”

GC: “What programmes or polices do you have in place to ensure that the country’s towns and cities are developed in a sustainable and forward-looking manner?”

SD: “The most important policies/frameworks for ensuring sustainable development and forward planning are spatial development plans/frameworks. These plans should be existent from a national to regional and to the local level. Currently, the Ministry is working towards mobilising financial resources for the preparation of an updated National Spatial Development Framework and Master Plan. From these, regional and local spatial development plans/frameworks are required to be prepared and implemented by the various aforementioned governance levels. These plans/frameworks are tools that guide land use and development within that particular area for a period of 30 years (national level); 20 years (regional level) and 10 years (local level) and come with complementary programmes and projects that are required to be implemented during the respective validity period.”

GC: “Accessibility around towns and cities is key. What plans do you have in place to ensure that all people can freely access and move across Eswatini’s towns and cities?”

SD: “The Ministry is mandated to prepare and implement a National Physical Development Plan which is aimed at ensuring integrated spatial development in the country. This plan then provides guidelines, in terms of requirements, within the various sectors for programmes and projects (infrastructure development and provision of services) to be implemented to ensure ease of access and movement and access to services throughout the country and its towns.”

GC: “What do you love the most about working in Government?”

SD: “Working for Government has exposed and broadened my understanding and knowledge about the operations of this institution. My current position and time as a civil servant has exposed me to working with various Ministries and assisted in expanding my skills and knowledge in various cross cutting technical aspects. This has been based on the continuous engagements with different professionals working in different levels of Government and in the private sector who are skilled and experienced in various fields.”

GC: “What do you love the most about your job and profession?”

SD: “I love being an urban planner because this field allows me to participate in the improvement of communities and promote social, economic and environmental opportunities and protection. Planning also allows one to be innovative in long term planning as well as to come up with solutions for various urban (land use and development) challenges/issues. Planners set the vision for development and provision of various services ranging from infrastructure (roads and buildings), social amenities (housing, schools, recreational facilities, churches and community facilities) and economic facilities (offices, retail and industrial), among others. Having an input in planning for the growth and development of our country and towns is what I love about my job and profession.”

GC: “What would you say are some of the challenges that come with your job?”

SD: “My job requires me to work with different stakeholders and clients. This can be challenging at times as personalities and attitudes differ from one person to the next. This requires one to learn to be accommodative and patient whilst dealing with various clients and stakeholders. Another challenge is that we set the target for development and the implementation depends on the compliance and buy in from various stakeholders and professionals. Convincing and ensuring compliance becomes a mammoth task at times, which can be challenging and sometimes results in problems that become very expensive and difficult to correct.”

GC: “What lessons have you learnt working for Government?”

SD: “Working for Government has taught me that contrary to the sentiments out there, there is actually a lot of work and delivery done within the civil service. I have also learnt to find alternative ways to deliver my mandate within limited resources. This has taught me to learn and be able to seek alternative methods for delivering certain programmes.”

GC: “What advice would you have for someone who wants to work in Government?”

SD: “There are many opportunities in Government but the processes for employment can be lengthy. I would advise graduates to explore internships within Government or any other institutions whilst seeking for employment. These may not always come with remuneration but they expose one to the work processes and other opportunities for employment within the service. Once in the service, I would advise them to be proactive and dedicated to their work and provide good service to the public.”

GC: “What are your aspirations for the future in Government?”

SD: “My aspirations for the future are to continue to deliver to the best of my abilities whilst learning from other professionals. I am also looking forward to academic and professional development that will expand my knowledge and expertise. This will improve my opportunities for growth.”

Editor’s note: Simphiwe Dube-Ntshingila is an Urban (Town) Planner by profession with eleven years’ experience. She holds a Master of Science (MSc) in Building, specialising in Property Development and Management as well as a Bachelor of Science (BSc) Degree and Honours Degree in Urban and Regional Planning. All these qualifications were obtained from the University of the Witwatersrand (Wits), South Africa.



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