Mother of all battles for Cape Town

2011-05-14 18:13

The race for the Mother City is a tightrope contest, with both the DA and ANC raising the spectre of a hung council.

By yesterday, the DA said it would get an outright majority of an estimated 51% of the vote. ­Party leader Helen Zille said on Monday that it needed every voter to come out next Wednesday to “secure Cape Town”.

But the ANC, under new provincial leader Marius Fransman, has built up a head of competitive steam and has brought in a crack team that has pulled the fractious leadership together.

By Friday, ANC pollsters said it expected 48% of the vote. ­Either way, it’s the mother of all battles.

The DA’s race for the city is built on its record of running it. Its slogan, “Delivery for all”, was crafted on the party’s view that Cape Town is both efficient and redistributive.

City Press decided to test the slogan, starting in Adderley Street close to the Western Cape provincial legislature.

It was a drizzly day and Helen Zille was on foot, crossing the grey and empty Bureau Street running off Adderley, on the way to the legislature.

Her ­assitant walked alongside her with a light pink umbrella covering both of them while Zille read and replied to messages on her phone.

That scene revealed the culture of a hard-work and low-bling style that has come to ­characterise Cape Town.

It’s not spin. Four studies in the last two years have named Cape Town the best metro in terms of service delivery.

These include the Support Programme for Accelerated ­Infrastructure Development, which is funded by and reports to the Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs; and BEE ratings agency ­Empowerdex, which found that “Cape Town is clearly the best city in the country for service delivery”.

Two property re-evaluations by independent evaluator ­Peter Meakin suggest that rates have increased by 68% over four years for the 75% of homeowners whose properties are valued at more than R300 000.

But Cape Town’s middle classes ­appear to approve of the way the city is being run.

Leon Katsen, who lives in middle-class Grassy Park, says he is “very happy” with the city’s services.

And in township wards, where the ANC has always held sway, the candidate list fiasco has ­been a gift to the DA.

Scores of people interviewed in these wards over the past two months indicated that they will ­either not vote or opt for an ­independent candidate. There are growing pockets of blue ­support in these areas.

But the ANC campaign has ­focused on mobilising this support base and may well turn it around – in the campaign’s final gasp.

Strategists are now focused on getting the voters out, as voters are less committed at local polls and the ANC needs a township turnout higher than 60%.

­Opposition voters in formerly white suburbs are much more committed – about 90% have told pollsters that they will head to voting stations come Wednesday.

But while middle-class homeowner Linda Cilliers, who lives in Constantia, is impressed with the DA, she warns of a tendency toward a “nanny city”, something which has stirred anti-city sentiment among some.

Two police officers turned up at her door to serve notice of possible prosecution as her house, the notice stated, was “derelict in appearance and a threat or danger to the safety of the general public”.

The officers told her that a neighbour had complained that her grass was too long and her boundary wall needed attention.

Ten municipal by-laws were passed last year alone, including – among others – on graffiti, ­liquor trading days and hours, and “problem buildings”.

But what if you live in a poor area and report a burst pipe spilling sewage down your street?

Is the city as efficient then?

Geoffrey Davidson, who lives in a Wendy house in the backyard of his mother’s house in Grassy Park and has been on a housing waiting list for more than 30 years, says the sewerage system in the area is overloaded and drains are often blocked.

He says: “The sewage (in my mother’s house) comes up every ­second week. The council can take days to come and fix it.”

This is the other Cape Town, where the landscape flattens out and the pretty postcard of a thousand tourist tomes gives way to the hard reality of working-class life.

The DA’s key election document, The Cape Town Story, says the 2009/10 budget allocation for free water, subsidised housing and electricity “nearly doubled to R776 million”.

The city has implemented an “indigent policy”, which reaches one in three formal properties.

The city’s pushed the value threshold to R199 000, up from R88 000. They qualify for a 100% rates rebate, 6 000 litres of free water and 50kWh of free electricity per month.

The city is also revamping ­ugly, old council flats in 11 poor Cape Flats neighbourhoods at a cost of R1.2 billion.

A walk through some of the recently upgraded flats shows a relative improvement: new doors, windows and burglar bars.

The architecture and planning of the Cape Flats has contributed to its violent sub-culture. Where there is nothing to do and no work to be had, gangs have filled the gaps, stimulating a local drug economy and pulling the youth into its lure and creating some of the highest rates of tik and other drug abuse in the world.

Now the city is working with German funders who are trying to reshape the urban space to prevent violence.

The R120-million investment includes a sports complex, well-lit pathways, 24-hour safe houses with community rooms, a ­library, community centres, and the revamping of a business ­area.

Together with a new train station, parts of Khayelitsha have been transformed; with Hanover Park, Manenberg and Gugulethu next in line.

Like in Joburg, efforts to ­develop evenly will always be vexed by rapid urbanisation. Cape Town has the highest rate of migrant inflow of all South African cities.

But while the city’s anti-land invasion unit boasts a 100% success rate in preventing any further invasion of city, the cost is high.

The term “invasion” ­also tells a story of a city that sees its new citizens as alien, ­almost a blight on its tourist prettiness.

In March, Nomonde Yiba in Khayelitsha SS informal settlement tried to accommodate a growing family by building ­upwards.

She spent more than R3 000 buying new material to build a second storey for her shack only to have it torn down by the anti-invasion squad.

The unit’s head, Stephen ­Hayward, says: “We had the right as land owners to act and take down the illegal extension that was built.”

This iron-fisted approach was also apparent in the city’s ­suppression of protests in ­Hangberg, which led to four people each losing an eye when the police shot rubber-bullets at them.

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