Motion of no confidence is a smokescreen to return to the gravy train

City of Johannesburg
City of Johannesburg

Motions of no confidence are a critical part of our democratic process. But like everything else in our democracy, motions can be abused for nefarious reasons, writes Herman Mashaba.

On August 22, 2019, three years to the day when the multi-party government was elected to govern Johannesburg and when I became the mayor of Johannesburg, we will face our second motion of no confidence.

If it succeeds, the multi-party government would have been afforded three years to attempt to fix a city that has been broken by decades of failed governance, neglect and rampant corruption.

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.

The motion of no confidence I face on August 22 has no such noble intention. It is tabled by the ANC, the very same party that nearly broke our city, failed our residents and looted with impunity for decades.

Their reasons offered to substantiate their action are as transparent as they are disingenuous. Before I assumed office, I had believed that it was government that lied and opposition parties who fought for the truth. The opposite has proven true in Johannesburg.

The ANC cites an imminent financial collapse of the city. To be fair they have been citing this as far back as early 2017, when they alleged we could not afford to pay salaries. The salaries were paid. This incessant wolf-crying of some imminent financial demise of the city has lasted for nearly three years. Comparable to the merits of Schabir Shaik's medical parole.

The truth is that we have closed out our 2018/19 financial year with an unprecedented level of 93% expenditure of our capital budget and 100% expenditure of our infrastructure grant funding. It is the first time in the city's history that this level of performance has been achieved for two consecutive years. Our cash balance at the end of the 2018/19 financial year stood at R4.4bn, more than that which is prescribed by National Treasury and enough to satisfy our ratings agencies.

While ratings are important, our focus has been to fix the city's broken infrastructure and redress the social backlogs that form the lived experiences of far too many of our residents. In this respect, the multi-party government has begun reversing the mess we inherited. Over 900 km of our roads have been resurfaced to improve our road condition index, with over R1.2bn budgeted for this purpose over the next three years. Power outages are on the decline because of our work in refurbishing old sub-stations, ensuring they meet the needs of growing communities.

Water leaks and bursts statistics are rapidly improving due to 120 km of water pipes having been replaced. In just three years we have started to turn our aging infrastructure around after decades of neglect. I cannot help but wonder where we could be in a few years from now if we continue on this trajectory.

We are diversifying our approach to housing to augment RDP housing with 4 000 serviced stands as part of our efforts to address the legacy of apartheid spatial planning and provide our residents with access to land and home ownership. The Inner City project now guarantees 6 000 affordable housing units from the first 84 of over 500 buildings we have seized control of.

Clinic and library operating hours are being extended and the city's first substance abuse facilities launched. Fire engines are arriving at every station in our city and our JMPD will nearly double in size when our recruits graduate in the next few months.

All of this is real change.

Let me turn to our fight against corruption and expose the dark side of the ANC's motion. We have over 6 000 cases under investigation, totalling more than R33bn in expenditure. Five of the ANC's former mayoral committee members have been implicated in criminal wrongdoing or malfeasance. When the ANC's regional chairperson stands to speak to the motion of no confidence, he will do so with a cloud of R30m worth of allegedly corrupt proceeds over his head. This is money he scored through a surreptitious contract with a state-capture linked company, "to maintain…strategic relationships with CoJ", while he was the MMC of Finance and responsible for overseeing the contract between the City of Johannesburg and this very same company.

Motions of no confidence are a critical part of our democratic process. I have embraced the nature of our coalition arrangement from day one. I was voted into the mayoralty by eight political parties. If they wish to replace me, I will respect their decision and stand aside because I never took this job to advance my personal interests or my political ambitions – of which I have none. I took this job because serving the people of Johannesburg is the highest honour I will ever have in my life. 

But like everything else in our democracy, motions can be abused for nefarious reasons. There is no question that this is exactly what the ANC is doing in this case.

It is important that the residents of Johannesburg, whose voice in this matter is not being sought, are aware of what the ANC is doing, why they are doing it and what will happen to the change that has started to take root in Johannesburg should the ANC succeed.

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

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