Max du Preez

DA's PE success could bring shift in political dynamics on the way to 2019

2017-01-03 08:12

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Barely four months after the municipal elections, people in Port Elizabeth say they can already notice the difference the new mayor and administration of the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropole are making.

If it is true that the DA’s administration has made a significant difference in such a short time, and if, as the DA claims, the same is true of Tshwane and Johannesburg, it can bring a shift in our political dynamics on the way to the next general election of 2019.

It would finally drive the point home to the electorate that efficient, clean governance, rather than quasi-revolutionary rhetoric and promises, is the secret to improving the quality of life and future prospects of all citizens. 

I spent time in Port Elizabeth during the holidays and asked around. It wasn’t a scientific process or a carefully balanced body of opinion, but still, everybody I spoke to said they could see a marked difference in the day-to-day running of the city and the attitude of municipal employees.

The formula, I’m told, is that mayor Athol Trollip and his team have stopped wasteful and unnecessary projects, are controlling money spent by city employees much more tightly and have instituted procedures that result in a more disciplined and conscientious bureaucracy.

From a visitor’s perspective, the business and tourist parts of Port Elizabeth are clean, functioning well and city employees appear helpful and efficient.

The little I personally know of Trollip – a few encounters before 1994 – tells me that he is a progressive person committed to social justice and genuine equal opportunities. Unless he’s changed, I suspect he will spend even more energy and resources on the townships of his metropole.

The people of Ibayi are far away from Pretoria. Out of sight, out of mind. The mayor and his administration are the team that can make a real difference to their lives.
The populists and the Zuma-club can rant and rave against “monopoly capitalism” all they want, but efficient, clean government and clear policies are what will really change South Africa and bring about genuine economic transformation.

Investment specialists tell me investors worldwide, like tourists, are increasingly looking at the economic health, infrastructure, administration and growth potential of cities rather than countries (with the precondition that the countries are stable, of course).

Examples of attractive world cities favoured by investors are Shanghai in China, Saint Petersburg in Russia, Vancouver in Canada and Mumbai and Chennai in India.
Cape Town is one of the prime examples of this on the African continent. Perhaps Trollip and Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga can do the same for their metropoles. That can drive the project to create jobs and thus alleviate inequality and poverty.

The governing ANC’s hysterical reaction to Msimanga’s recent trip to Taiwan either demonstrates an ignorance of this potential benefit or it is reckless politicking.
Msimanga was accused of treason and fraud (?) because his trip supposedly undermined South Africa’s foreign policy, but the truth is that have a well-staffed Liaison Office in Taipei led by Musawenkosi Aphane. 

Two years ago, the department of Trade and Industry supported a business delegation to Taiwan seeking better trade and investment in South Africa – exactly what Msimanga was doing.

In fact, the South African department of International Relations and Cooperation declares on its official website: “The strength of cooperation between South Africa and Taiwan is underpinned by our similar values and principles that are informed by our commitment to a technical partnership aimed at advancing South Africa and Taiwan’s domestic development priorities. Our total bilateral trade was recorded at over US$2.2bn for 2012.”

Petty politicking it is, then.

There is a heavy burden on the mayors and administrations of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay to run their cities well, cut red tape and corruption and so serve as an example for the provincial and national governments.

That, more than anything else, is what South Africa needs now: efficient, clean and transparent government focused on growth, development and the needs of the people rather than of the political elites.

If these mayors do this and all their citizens’ benefit, the DA could harvest many more votes in 2019 and break through the 30 percent support ceiling.

Read more on:    da  |  anc  |  max du preez  |  port elizabeth


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