We, the participants, went through a range of emotions during the drama that saw Herman Mashaba elected Johannesburg mayor on Monday.
On this historic occasion, it was wonderful to be in the old City Hall, despite interminable delays and mind-numbing noise levels. I did not enjoy the bellicose taunting of opponents. Outbreaks of schadenfreude, pleasure derived from others’ misfortune, were misplaced.
And this was brought home when we realised an ANC councillor had died during the proceedings. It was certainly time for the city’s ANC leadership to go. Many had become arrogant, delusional and disconnected from the people they were supposed to serve.
The eight complaints which Mashaba lodged with the Human Rights Commission over the past few months, plus the court cases previously mentioned in this column, give a glimpse of the lack of attention to the most needy.
Never mind malfunctioning traffic lights, the proliferation of litter, unreliable electricity, and the growing numbers of displaced people inhabiting our parks and other public places. Change was necessary. Yet some outgoing members of the mayoral committee have earned respect for their efforts.
In the hurly-burly of foot-stomping and chanting, all are treated with the same contempt. That can’t be right. Similarly, there is room for nuance in the jubilation of finally having a DA mayor for South Africa’s most important city, with its R56.4 billion budget.
The DA say, if Johannesburg works, SA works. A dynamic financial hub can indeed change South African history. But that’s not going to be easy. It can’t be accomplished by the DA alone. Just as the mayoralty could not have been attained without the EFF, so the red brigade’s cooperation will be needed in future.
We are entering uncharted territory. The DA-EFF arrangement is not a coalition. It demands greater consultation and negotiation than we have seen in Johannesburg. This is good for democracy. South Africans need to be able to listen to each other.
Let’s hope it doesn’t impede Mashaba’s proven ability, as a businessman, to get things done. The skills audit that Mashaba has promised, along with an end to corruption, will result in document-shredding and some staff changes. But the city does have a core of competent, dedicated public servants.
They will need to be augmented and well led. If the Mashaba team will be on a learning curve, so too will the people behind outgoing mayor Parks Tau. While there were individual examples of ANC leaders graciously accepting defeat, the general impression was less favourable.
Many ANC councillors left the chamber shortly after casting their votes for mayor and chief whip. There was a perception of sore losers. Some were overheard promising service delivery protests every day if Mashaba won.
Protesting about stuff they were unable to deliver in more than 20 years. Even some DA supporters have unrealistic expectations of how quickly the big ship can be turned, as if all problems will be fixed today. We’ll get there. Tomorrow will be better than yesterday, for sure.