Former Durban Mayor Obed Mlaba

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Obed Mlaba:
From entrepreneur
to Mayor of Durban

By Brian Baker, Senior Correspondent

6 April 2006: Obed Mlaba became mayor of eThekwini Municipality in 1996. Since 2000 he has also won two five-year terms to serve as the first mayor of Durban UniCity, which is known as the eThekwini Municipal Area. The UniCity authority was formed through the merger of seven former local government districts. Since the re-organisation, Obed Mlaba has been elected twice for 5-year terms in elections, which were won by the African National Congress (ANC). Mayor Mlaba is a prominent member of the ANC.

Update: James Nxumalo is the current Mayor of Durban

He has an extensive business background and has worked in the economic development sector, the human resources sector and as an entrepreneur. He is currently also the coordinator of the NEPAD cities programme in Africa. Mayor Mlaba is responsible for providing leadership across an area of 2,300 sq kms with a population of 3.5 million people.

His four strategic goals for his period at the helm reflect the metropolitan development framework. This has four main components.

These are ensuring safety, security and crime prevention; promoting tourism by making the area tourist friendly; actively encouraging inward investment and local entrepreneurship and promoting environmental cleanliness campaigns.

The mayor is uniquely well qualified to support the third of these. He has been chairman of the AmaXimba Development Trust since 1995 which has attracted over a billion rand of investment in 14 years and specialised in the 1990’s in business development. In the 1980’s he was an entrepreneur in the retail sector.

He entered local government in 1994 during South Africa’s transition and was initially elected mayor in 1996. In 1998 Durban was voted the best managed city in Africa and reinforced its reputation by being voted in the two years that followed as the best performing city and best performing Councillors in South Africa.

Obed Mlaba, who has an MBA from the International Management Center in Buckingham, UK and a BA in Arts Administration from UNISA., is a member of the Institute of Marketing Management. He is 65 and is married with seven children.

The mayor is the Deputy Chairman of KwaZulu-Natal Local Government Association and of the South Africa Local Government Association.

As mayor of the metropolitan council he has lead on the development and implementation of a strategic marketing plan for the city of Durban and has initiated the Mayors Awards for excellence in achievement. These are awarded annually in four categories. Nominees are restricted to people from poor communities.

He has lead responsibility for economic development activities and the Council’s support to small and medium sized enterprises and for training for emerging business people.

Mayor Mlaba began his career as a social worker for the former Bantu Affairs Commission before he went to work in the private sector as a personnel officer for Romatex in Durban. In 1981 he moved to the multinational Grindrod and Co where he worked for five years as an industrial relations specialist.

After his time out of the corporate sector establishing a supermarket chain he went to work for South African Breweries as a Business Development Manager in 1987. In 1994 and 1995 he was Business Development Manager for Eskom, the largest energy company in South Africa.

World Mayor 2023