Sons of Soweto go head to head
Ferial Haffajee, City Press Editor
Johannesburg - With a purse of gold and a magical skyline; with residents from every corner of Mzansi and much further afield, Johannesburg is South Africa’s cosmopolitan heartbeat.
It is the coveted heartland, its crown now contested by two sons of Soweto.
The ANC’s mayoral candidate is Parks Tau, currently head of finances in the mayoral committee.
Tau, who is 40 years old, is a no-nonsense workhorse.
He doesn’t seek media attention and ran a low-key campaign because the governing party decided not to officially name its mayoral candidates.
For the first time, the DA has fielded a black mayoral candidate: Mmusi Maimane.
The 30-year-old management graduate and practising consultant is an urban political party’s dream. Slick and street-smart, he charmed everywhere he went on the hustings, from the country clubs to the township markets.
For the first time, the city had the semblance of a race to watch. From 1994, Johannesburg has run a racial poll: blacks vote for the ANC and whites, along increasingly with coloureds and Indians, vote for the DA.
How will it end? The DA predicts a close race with the possibility of a small ANC victory.
The ANC’s latest figures suggest it will end the race with about 62% of the final vote.
The opposition was pleasantly surprised at a black bump of support that saw its numbers swell, possibly because of the Maimane effect or a nascent sign of a non-racial opposition vote beginning to form.
Middle-class voters tend to pick parties on issues - and the numbers suggest they are beginning to vote on present lived experience lines rather than that of history.
But an ANC strategist said polls “confirmed a racial voting pattern”.
Black voters have signalled an intention to vote for the ANC, while the opposition looks set to retain control of the suburban white vote.
There is rising support for the ANC in the south of Johannesburg where the black middle class resides and a lift in ANC support in the northern suburbs, he said.
ANC campaigning in Johannesburg’s northern suburbs has undergone a sea change.
Last week, the Sunday Times reported that classic dinners, croissant and coffee soirees and house parties at exquisite mansions had filled the coffers of suburban candidates.
But, in the main, the ANC has failed to break the racial pattern largely because of the dismal billing crisis which has beset the city. Revenue collection is a black hole.
But Johannesburg spends more per resident than Cape Town (and more than any other city) and it has a bigger and better capex budget than the Mother City.
This is plain to see in Soweto, which is a city within a city now and no longer a township.
But the imperative to make formal the informal will never end: Johannesburg is a seething mass of humanity arriving in throngs by the day.
Fly in and you can see new shacklands springing up, the zinc of new shacks glinting in the winter sun.
Running Johannesburg is a permanent balancing act between maintenance of the old city and development of the new.
The ANC’s last term revealed an administration focused on redistribution but not on maintenance.
An interesting piece of research showed that potholes were the fourth biggest issue for both black and white voters.
The colour of money is changing in Jozi. It is the quintessential city in flux and the new mayor will have to take that into account.
Either way, this is the city battle to watch on Wednesday.