OPINION: A red beret all Herman Mashaba needs to complete his look

Protests rock Alexandra. (Thabang Mathibedi)
Protests rock Alexandra. (Thabang Mathibedi)

Herman Mashaba has worked hard at crafting a narrative he knows many South Africans would agree with. He paints a story of corruption and capture yet does nothing to show proof for his claims, writes Geoff Makhubo.

Johannesburg Executive Mayor Herman Mashaba's article on News24 on August 8 says a lot more about the man than about the issues he purports to raise.

For one thing, Mashaba must take his own advice. He writes: "It would be hypocritical of me to lament motions of no confidence. They exist in our laws for a reason. I was one of many glued to my television screen praying for them to succeed in removing President Jacob Zuma in order to see my country saved from the clutches of the state capture architects."

Immediately after this, he goes on to lament the very issue he said it would be "hypocritical of me to…"

It is exactly this gap between what he says and does that has placed the City of Johannesburg where it is – close to a fiscal cliff, declining levels of service delivery and with uncontrolled and ever mushrooming settlements.

City finances are not where they should be. For example, electricity supplier City Power, which has traditionally been the city's cash cow, is now on perpetual overdraft of around R2bn.

READ: Herman Mashaba – Motion of no confidence is a smokescreen to return to the gravy train

The revenue budget has for the past two financial years been overstated just to balance the books. A cursory reading of the monthly reports and the annual report will show a consistent revenue under performance. This has been compensated for by chronic under expenditure on critical service delivery items like waste removal, open space management, repairs and maintenance. The City by its own admission did not have funds to buy chemicals to clean swimming pools thereby denying communities from poor areas (who don't have pools in their own homes) an opportunity to swim last summer.

Mashaba seems to have worked hard at crafting a narrative he knows many South Africans would agree with. He paints a story of corruption and capture yet does nothing to show a thread of proof for his claims.

Unfortunately, none of his public claims about corruption have been borne out. Instead city council committees like the Municipal Public Accounts Committee are continually presented with reports trying to prove Mashaba's corruption story. So far, nothing tangible has been presented. Not even the Auditor General is able to assist in this regard.

Mashaba may be in office in the name of the Democratic Alliance but his programmes and words tell us that he is a mere puppet and the EFF the puppet master. Only a red overall and a red beret would complete his look.

Delivery of services has suffered in Joburg because of a mayor who is forever redirecting money from budgeted projects to fund populist causes like illegally providing mobile toilets to Dali Mpofu informal settlement in Ekurhuleni.

It would have still been wrong but a little understandable if Mashaba was going out of his way to benefit his own party rather than its rivals.

When law enforcement acts against illegality, as it happened in Alexandra, Mashaba outrageously promises land invaders that they would have their illegally built homes rebuilt by the city government. The City of Johannesburg is in trouble when a person who is supposed to be the chief custodian of the by-laws cannot be trusted with implementing them. Even worse, he openly calls for the by-laws to be flouted.

While it is inevitable that a city like Johannesburg will continue to attract those looking for better life and economic opportunities, it is the duty of the city leadership to ensure that the growth is controlled and planned.

Under Mashaba, the DA-led city government allows land invasions, continues the unsustainable city sprawl in the form of growth of new informal settlements mainly on the periphery of the City.

The rate of uncontrolled mushrooming of settlements around the city will in time become worse than the Brazilian favelas and future generations are going to pay a big price for Mashaba's decision to allow this to fester.

All because we have a mayor who dances to the tune of the EFF to keep him in undeserved power – as a leader of the party that only garnered 38,37% in the 2016 local government elections.

Ironically, as things stand, the ANC has 122 seats to the DA's 103, yet Mashaba goes around suggesting that the electorate "rejected" the ANC.

While it is not our place to raise it, one must wonder if those who voted for the DA, knew they were giving their vote to the EFF – a pseudo black nationalist party.

This question also applies to other parties in council and how they vote on the matter will reflect if they, like Mashaba, are happy to be run by a party that has 30 seats and 10% electoral support.

While one expects a lack of principle from the EFF, who are the master political chameleons that changes colour depending on the bank note dangled before it, Mashaba's jelly spinal cord is a curious development.

Still, it is important that ratepayers be aware that the reason for the decline of common services such as grass cutting, repairs of potholes and of burst water pipes, waste collection and other services is because they have a mayor whose priorities and budget decisions are determined not by his own party, not by coalition partners, not by the needs of the residents of the City but by his puppet masters.

Mashaba waxes lyrically about the infrastructure backlog his administration has inherited as though he is a recent visitor to South Africa, let alone Johannesburg. He seems to not care for the fact that the ANC inherited a city divided along racial lines with the quality of services and amenities reflecting the colour line that defined South African life.

Recognising that little could be done to reverse the historical spatial development of the city, successive ANC city government sought to stitch the city together. The Bus Rapid Transfer (BRT) system is an example of how we have sought to do this by linking Soweto to the inner city, educational institutions, health facilities and ultimately to the northern areas of Alexandra, Sandton and Midrand.

Interestingly, under Mashaba's administration, the BRT phase of stitching the inner city, Sandton and Alexandra through Louis Botha corridor, is delayed and remains incomplete – so much for being a champion of prudence and service!

Mashaba can say all he likes and profess success but the daily experiences of the City of Johannesburg residents say it all. People know when their lives are going backwards and no amount of playing victim can change that.

While Mashaba tries to portray himself as a victim, the reasons the ANC seeks a vote of no confidence is to secure the long-term future of the City. It is to save Johannesburg from a mayor whose precarious hold on power has made him the effective lapdog of populists.

The future of the City of Johannesburg, indeed our duty to future generations of Joburg and ratepayers cannot afford Mashaba's pity party, no matter how well choreographed.

- Makhubo is a chairperson of the ANC in the Region of Johannesburg and leader of the ANC caucus in the City of Johannesburg Metropolitan Municipality.

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. 

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