Time to make good on promises: Cape Town

2011-05-21 16:19

Two weeks ago, Patricia de Lille started reading about urbanisation ­success stories – confident of a DA win in Cape Town, but fully aware of the ­challenges ­facing her city.

On Friday, after buzzing the downstairs floor of the DA ­offices, I was let in without question and wandered along past sparsely furnished offices looking for Cape Town’s ­mayor-to-be.

Anyone could have walked in, including Julius Malema, who was on a TV tuned to the news channel.

There were gasps from young DA activists as he spoke about the “white madam” and her “worker”.

I am ushered into an unprepossessing side office where De Lille joins me.

Engaging in none of the power play to which ­politicians occasionally resort, she candidly asks me where I would like her to sit.

Tired but still hard at work, De Lille explored the issues that need to be addressed in the Mother City.

Her reputation of caring for the poor has resulted in her publicly stating she “would make helping the homeless ­people of the city a special mayoral project for the first three years of my administration”.

She has set out a six-point plan, including converting a city-owned building into a “one-stop assessment centre” to help people access services, and strengthening relationships with NGOs and helping them with their ­financial oversight and reporting obligations.

But there are also 340 000 residents on the city’s housing application list, with 18 000 households migrating to the city each year.

Proper housing is a crucial, emotionally charged ­issue that has led to violent confrontations between ­communities and the ­police, the most recent being in Mitchells Plain this week.

Part of the problem was that the number of migrants, both ­legal and illegal, created a “shifting target” for housing, she said. “It is a worldwide ­phenomenon of urbanisation and the brunt of it is borne by Gauteng and Cape Town.

“I would like to look at other cities in the world ... Brazil has a good urbanisation policy.”

Overcoming the “legacy of spatial development of the apartheid regime” would help solve the housing issue, as well as resolve issues such as ­inequality and racial divisions.

“Over the next five years, I would like to build a more ­inclusive city so that every ­Capetonian feels ‘this is my city’.”

She plans to accomplish this by making use of the city’s ­history, and putting a well-functioning public transport system in place so that people can travel easily and cheaply.

A proper public transport system, such as the Khayelitsha rail extension and the Bus Rapid Transit System currently being implemented, would “serve everyone”.

She believes this election has “exploded the myth that the DA is for rich, white people” and ­intends to continue to improve the DA’s track record of service ­delivery in the city.

Looking at the budget was “a priority”, but she said the recent weeks of campaigning had ­prevented her from applying her mind to it.

“I can’t say (whether there will be further rates hikes), but collection rates are good and cross-subsidisation allows us to spend more on poorer areas.”

She swatted aside accusations of nepotism levelled against her as “baseless nonsense”.

Allegations she had used her influence to secure jobs for her son Alistair, a clerk in Parliament, and her sister Sarah Paulse, who is an ID MP, were “a sign of desperation from the ANC to try to divert attention from a very positive campaign by the DA”.

She said Alistair was not employed by her and she had not influenced his getting the job, and that Paulse was an elected Member of ­Parliament.

She said she had a family with “a proud history in the anti-apartheid struggle”.

They had attained their positions on their own merits. “(The allegations are) ­nonsense, nonsense, nonsense.”

The barely concealed irritation in her voice dropped immediately upon mention of the problem of substance abuse in Cape Town, a scourge that has ­affected a number of working-class communities.

As MEC for social development, her concern was not feigned.

While more facilities to help addicts and alcoholics rehabilitate needed to be put in place, it was the supply that had to be combated.

Illegal shebeens needed to be shut down and the metro police, which has a ­specialised drug unit, needed to be continually resourced and trained in order to deal with this, she said.

And what would she like to see from an aerial perspective of Cape Town in five years’ time?

“I would love to see an ­efficient public transport ­infrastructure that has changed the lives of everyone ... safe, ­efficient and reliable.”

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