Herman Mashaba

Response to Ralph Mathekga: Coalitions exist through mutual commitment

2018-10-30 10:24
Mayor of Johannesburg Herman Mashaba. (Cornel van Heerden, Netwerk24)

Mayor of Johannesburg Herman Mashaba. (Cornel van Heerden, Netwerk24)

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In reading Ralph Mathekga's column, 3 big political parties offer mediocre prospects for upcoming election it becomes painfully clear that the complexity of coalition government surpasses the analytical skills of some of our political commentators. 

Mathekga characterises coalition arrangements at local government as "pay-as-you-go" relationships, proceeding to question working coalition arrangements as being unaccountable to the people, not guided by principles and focussed only on fixing potholes. 

I do not imagine any words, no matter how powerful, could sway Mathekga from his views. However, in the interests of the well-adjusted people of our country, I felt it necessary to respond.  

Coalition governments are not a miscarriage of democracy as Mathekga suggests. They arise from an electorate tired of the abuse of single party dominance, becoming disconnected from the people they are meant to serve. 

They call upon differing parties with different solutions, to work collectively to solve complex problems facing our residents. 

The local government space affords greater prospect for successful coalition arrangements because there is less space for ideological differences. 

We might hold different views on land expropriation or the role of the state in the economy, but these ideologies really find an audience at national political stage. 

Mathekga's notion that policy gaps are too wide to be navigated is based on the false premise that local government is an ideology intensive space. It isn't. 

Local government is about delivering roads, electricity and water. It is about addressing spatial inequality, creating jobs through being competitive with our neighbours. It is about collecting refuse, fighting corruption, building houses and achieving a rule of law. 

The point, which some commentators spectacularly misses, is that these coalitions operate entirely off principles which are premised on delivering change. It begins with an understanding of how the people of our city have been abused, neglected and forgotten.

Our shared principles guide the imperatives of fast-tracking service delivery, creating jobs and fighting corruption. 

I note with particular interest Mathekga's inference that because these coalitions have survived in Johannesburg, there must be deals being done to "lubricate" the arrangements. 

Without fear of contradiction, there is not a government in South Africa that has done more to combat corruption than the City of Johannesburg. 

With the support of the multi-party government, on guiding principles and not lubrication, one of the country's finest investigators, in the form of General Shadrack Sibiya, was tasked to set up a unit. 

This unit has over 4 000 cases under investigation, involving more than R24bn. For the first time in our country people are being arrested, are before our courts of law and justice is being served up to those who have betrayed public trust. Tell me, where else to do you see this kind of commitment to rooting out corruption? 

The five coalition partners, and the EFF voting on an issue by issue basis, work together in the best interests of the residents of our city. 

Under this arrangement, more has been done to address the mountainous backlogs of service delivery that were inherited. Suddenly more is being invested in electricity, water, roads, housing and other key priorities than has ever been invested before. Services are being provided in forgotten informal settlements, where residents thank the multi-party government for being made to feel "like a human being" for the first time. Free substance abuse facilities are opening in Johannesburg for the first time, while specialised units are being set up to combat the drug trade. 

All of this is rather more than fixing potholes, wouldn't you say?

All of this arose from the principled commitment of coalition partners in the multi-party government with the support of the EFF.  

Mathekga's assessment, that coalition governments are not publically accountable, is absurd. If you want to find unaccountable, look towards the previous government, protected by a majority who blindly supported their government looting the city blind. 

We operate almost entirely off rigorous consultation to find common ground with different political parties representing different constituencies. Multi-party governments have no assurance of their survival until the next elections, they depend on achieving change to the satisfaction of their constituent parties and the collective majority of residents they represent. 

Mathekga's understanding of liberalism must be that anything goes and we are politically accepting of that. Liberalism means the rights of the individual are paramount in a relationship in which the state provides a rule of law. How then is it illiberal to suggest that the laws of our country, as they apply to immigration, should be enforced? 

I think Mathekga needs a dictionary more then he needs a column.

The coalition in Johannesburg works, because the partners in the coalition make it work. From day one, our coalition partners have sought to find common ground and execute our mandate to deliver change. Johannesburg is starting to change in ways that will last long into the future. 

If Mathekga doesn't like it, we are fortunate to live in a constitutional democracy. I suggest he gathers the courage of his convictions, register a political party, contests the next elections, win them and then show us all how it ought to be done.  

- Herman Mashaba is executive mayor of the City of Johannesburg.

Disclaimer: News24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on News24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of News24.

Read more on:    herman mashaba  |  ralph mathekga  |  city of johannesburg  |  coalitions
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