Here are some things that need fixing in Johannesburg: electricity supply (including smart meters, pre-paid meters and illegal connections) billing, water, refuse removal, faulty traffic lights, road repairs, housing, parks, pavements and crime, among others.
Housing and jobs top the list in the city’s poorest neighbourhoods in Region G, where I work. But residents there also suffer travails similar to those of wealthier suburbanites.
Unemployment in the metro is 30.7%. Yet in some informal settlements, the rate is higher than 70%.
Those who do find work have menial, soul-destroying jobs. Mayor Park Tau says on social media that the city “created 174 000 EPWP (Extended Public Works Programme) opportunities throughout the political term (since 2011) and 51 000 in 2014-15”.
Whether these figures are accurate is arguable, and will be subject to questions in council. But you can be sure of two things.
First, these are not real jobs. They are temporary, short-term “opportunities” at low levels of skill and pay.
Second, they are allocated according political and personal preference. Jobs for pals. There is no equal opportunity.
This I know because of regular feedback from those excluded. In Joburg’s north, we have been plagued by sustained electricity outages over the past few months.
Those who can afford to do so are moving off the City Power grid. Few in the deep south would be able to pay for such options.
Illegal connections are rampant and dangerous. The city does not prosecute for illegal electricity or water connections.
The rate of deterioration of infrastructure and services is unsustainable. The city cannot go on like this, with the same administration, under the same political leadership, making the same excuses and promises year after year.
Yet things can change. The prospects for greater efficiency have been improved by the entry of an exceptionally successful businessman into the mayoral contest.
Herman Mashaba’s selection has added new dimensions to the discourse about racism and redress. The founder of Black Like Me is accused of not understanding or taking account of “structural racism” or the lasting effects of apartheid.
Yet it is also possible, on reading his books and articles, and listening to him, to conclude that he understands those things very well, at first hand.
A similar rebuttal may apply to the accusation that Mashaba is not in favour of redress.
He told the Daily Maverick this week: “I’m for … redress of the past. That’s something that I practice and I’ve been practising for the last 30 years, starting with my own business”.
A further accusation is that his misgivings about racial classification and BBBEE-related cronyism somehow set him apart from the party he now represents.
I am not convinced that the gap is as wide as some argue. However, on balance, his personal preference, as a former chairman of the Free Market Foundation, may indeed be for less government intervention than envisioned in his party’s policies.
The point is that a forceful, effective, can-do person is now in the frame to lead South Africa’s biggest, richest city. Change is coming.