The City of Johannesburg has been overwhelmed by a dark cloud. Shoddy governance, unethical behaviour and corruption are the order of the day in the corridors of power.
In my listening tours, I have personally seen how corrupt practices destroy lives and livelihoods. For example, instead of introducing proper sanitation infrastructure in Kliptown, Soweto, residents have been unfairly forced to use portable chemical toilets at great cost to the taxpayers continuously over many years.
South Africa has passed the quarter-of-a-century mark since the end of apartheid and the beginning of its democracy in 1994, and thanks to ANC government incompetence and corruption, the delivery of services to the citizenry became a mirage. As a result, service delivery protests became a regular occurrence; people were saying enough is enough. People could no longer be deceived nor be subjected to a persistent assault on their basic human rights.
Communities are raising their voices about issues such as access to electricity, housing, water and sanitation, health and social security – nothing out of the ordinary.
The City of Johannesburg is the largest city in South Africa, classified as a megacity, and is one of the 100 largest urban areas in the world. We cannot let it go down the drain just like that.
Imagine a City of Gold that shines once more; a city of opportunities; a smart city for the new smart generation. It is the most powerful commercial centre on the African continent. It generates 16% of South Africa’s GDP and employs 12% of the national workforce.
It must be led by capable, professional and experienced quality leaders who have a proven track record, leaders such as the DA.
The DA is the only party with a solid track record of integrity and honest delivery in government. Over the past decades, we know what has been standing in the way of progress and economic inclusion.
The key drivers of inequality of opportunity in South Africa are well established. They include a failed, crony state and cadre deployment which the president admitted to when he appeared before the Zondo commission. Cadre deployment has brought on its train the cloying stench of tenderpreneurs, those thugs in suits who are milking the City of Johannesburg dry.
South Africa’s best-run province, best-run metro and top five best-run municipalities are all governed by the DA, according to independent rating organisations.
This, of course, is not the occasion to record the achievements of DA-led municipalities. However, we do need to show why we deserve to lead this city.
In a short space of time, the DA-run City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality has been actively resolving the backlog of many years of incompetent neglect by the ANC. A turnaround would surely take longer than just three years? The mess and the rot were too entrenched. But we started to change a lot.
In my portfolio alone, as a member of the mayoral committee for health and social development, we extended our service in 27 clinics; we reopened six clinics; we established five treatment centres for substance abuse; we rolled out 10 mobile clinics to service areas that did not have facilities, to mention but just a few of our achievements.
Just a stone’s throw away from the City of Johannesburg is the neighbouring DA-run Midvaal, the only municipality in Gauteng where the DA governs with a full mandate. This is where you see the real difference, where citizens have benefited from a decade of people-focused municipal delivery, where public money is spent on the public and not on corrupt public servants and their cronies.
Midvaal has seven consecutive years of clean audits to show for it. Investor confidence is at its all-time high. It’s a well-oiled machine.
And then you drive back to Johannesburg and wonder if you are still in the same province, the same country.
Over two decades of political freedom have not resulted in adequate improvement in the socioeconomic prospects of the majority of our people. Our country’s social stability and progress depend on urgently fostering economic inclusion for the millions of people who remain locked out of the economy due to historical injustices committed on the basis of race.
The more elections came, the more promises were made. There is nothing as painful as broken promises justified by overbearing arrogance.
The more things “changed” in the City of Johannesburg under the governing party, the more they stayed the same. The time for stomach politics and food parcels is over. The work ahead is massive. Our people expect us to create jobs for them and not hand them food parcels.
Our entrepreneurs expect us to create an enabling environment for their businesses to thrive. The government can do this by merely cutting the red tape and removing doorkeepers and other impediments to running businesses both big and small.
Addressing these challenges requires a whole-of-society approach. It requires government, business, communities, families and individuals to work together to overcome them.
One of the most powerful ways government can amplify its impact is to leverage private sector involvement through procurement; that is, in the way it selects the companies it chooses to do business with.
Where competing companies can provide goods or services at the same level of functionality and price, this policy would have due regard for companies that make the most positive socioeconomic impact as measured by the Sustainable Development Goals.
One of our priorities is that competence will take priority where we operate. In procurement we will be fair, transparent and deserving SMMEs will be afforded opportunities to operate.
We will do due diligence so that we support businesses which will deliver projects on time and within budget, unlike the current norm where there is no delivery. There are many unfulfilled or poorly delivered contracts, and they hurt our people who are most reliant on government services.
Poverty is man-made and it must be dismantled with all might from its root canal. We will end poverty in all its forms everywhere.
The City of Johannesburg is not poor. It has a huge budget which, if well spent, can make a huge difference in people’s lives.
Let us build a lean and capable state based on liberal democratic principles.
Phalatse is a councillor in the Johannesburg city council and a DA mayoral candidate