Columns 17.5.2017 06:37 am

Joburg energy drives SA

The interior of the new Joburg council chamber in Metro Centre, Braamfontein
Pic: City of Joburg

The interior of the new Joburg council chamber in Metro Centre, Braamfontein Pic: City of Joburg

Change is happening despite ceaseless attempts by the defeated ANC to prevent the city running smoothly.

Even when we recognise that flattery is insincere, many of us still believe almost anything that boosts our self-esteem.

So I agreed last week when a guest speaker told councillors that Johannesburg politics is more important than what happens in parliament. Of course it is, and if you keep stroking our egos, we won’t notice that MPs are paid much more than councillors.

Yet there is some truth in the observation about the importance of Johannesburg politics, especially if MPs refuse to do the “honourable” thing and unseat a certain constitutional delinquent.

“If Johannesburg works, South Africa works”, is more than an election slogan. Johannesburg is the engine of the country.

Operating at full potential, it could propel SA to success. Parliament, under current leadership, is incapable of even going in the right direction.

In Johannesburg, with a new coalition government, there is a palpable sense of energy and change. This is epitomised by mayor Herman Mashaba rolling up his sleeves, physically helping to repair potholes (17 000 fixed by Joburg Roads Agency since March), or personally picking up prodigious amounts of litter.

Change is happening despite ceaseless attempts by the defeated ANC to prevent the city running smoothly. Previously this column has noted the obstructive tactics which delay council proceedings.

We’ve seen destructive violence in the council chamber. Consider last week’s riots in Ennerdale and Eldorado Park. The grievances were about housing and false promises.

Whether or not the ANC played any role in instigating the protests, the party certainly helped create the climate by ignoring the needs of those communities.

And since losing power in Johannesburg, the ANC has betrayed these people even further by slashing R145 million off Johannesburg’s annual housing grant, which is allocated by national government, via the province. This budget cut was a cynical act of political spite, aimed at harming the DA-led coalition.

The ANC does not want the coalition to receive credit for delivering houses.

The outgoing ANC municipal government left a housing backlog of 300 000 units. National and provincial comrades knew this.

Yet they decided to halve the housing grant. Why? For more than 20 years, the ANC failed the people of Eldos, Ennerdale and other impoverished areas.

There were numerous instances of corruption, ripping off poor people. For example, in March this year, ANC-appointed officials from the city’s housing department appeared in the Commercial Crimes Court on charges of fraud and corruption.

Housing makes headlines but it’s not the only sphere where the ANC has left a mess. When the 2017-18 budget is presented next week, we’ll get some idea of how the city will tackle an inherited R179 billion infrastructure backlog. Yes, R179 billion.

In City Power alone, the backlog is R69 billion, thanks to ANC neglect. Winter is coming. Brace yourselves. Keeping the lights on will be a challenge. It will require skilful management and dedicated staff.

Most of all, it will require committed leadership by example.

No shortage of that. Joburg will come right. So, too, will South Africa.

DA city councillor for Joburg Martin Williams

DA city councillor for Joburg Martin Williams

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