If Solly Msimanga wanted to hear what the residents of Slovo Park in Johannesburg had to say, on Tuesday he got an earful.
Residents told him they had electricity… but that was about all. They had no water, their toilets were not drained and they were starving. Far too many, especially the young, were unemployed.
“We are hungry. We sleep on empty stomachs daily here,” a resident told Msimanga.
The Tshwane mayor has been nominated by the DA to challenge for the Gauteng premier position in the 2019 national elections.
Some residents said they wanted change in Gauteng — they were not impressed with the leadership of incumbent Premier David Makhura.
Asked what they wished for themselves in future, a group of young men told Msimanga they wanted better opportunities to improve their future. One of the men said he had completed his matric, but was unable to further his studies because his family could not afford it. He told Msimanga his dream was to study sports management.
Msimanga said the plight of young people needed special attention. He said the youth needed to be guided in the right direction. “If we are not going to assist the youth and drive them in the right direction, we will have serious challenges,” Msimanga said.
Residents told Msimanga the area was awash with drugs and crime.
“Criminals do as they please here. They commit crimes along the freeway and run back to our shacks when they are in trouble. This puts our children in danger,” said Jessica Mojanaga, 27, a single mother with four children.
Mojanaga told Daily Maverick her family survived on her children’s social grants. She would vote for the DA because the ANC had made far too many empty promises. She said she struggled to pay her electricity account — despite people earning less than R5,000 a month being charged at a capped rate.
Ruth Malebogo Rapati, 49, told Msimanga she could not use her identity document because it was ruined, and she was suffering as a result. Rapati said she did not have the R140 to register for a new identity document.
“I used to vote for the ANC, but I dumped the party because they do not care for the people. They eat among themselves and have forgotten who put them up there. I will vote for the DA if they can get me an ID, but I need to vote for a party that will not turn a blind eye to our suffering,” she said.
Charles Strauss, 59, said he would vote for the DA. It was the only alternative in the country: those who opposed the work done by the DA were against the empowerment of black people.
Strauss lives in a two-room shack and said he survived by doing odd jobs within the community. The shack has no windows and Strauss uses old rags to keep out the cold.
The father of two’s state of mind was questioned by bystanders, but Strauss said he was perfectly fine, producing his ID and saying he would be on his way to the polls. He pointed Daily Maverick to his pit toilet, which has the letters DA boldly painted on the side.
“They want to create confusion with these scandals. There is nothing wrong with the DA that is not wrong with the other parties, including the ANC,” Strauss said.
Many Slovo residents said they would be happy to have Msimanga as Premier of Gauteng.
Msimanga said he would ensure that Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba visited the community to hear about their problems so they would be swiftly addressed.
Msimanga acknowledged that the DA had no power provincially. He said the party needed to win Gauteng in order quickly address the community’s challenges.
Msimanga also criticised the ruling party’s policy on land and said it was creating problems as random land grabs were occurring in many places.
“We [have] already begun a project to address aspects of the land issue and ensure that people who own land, own title deeds,” Msimanga said.
Responding to questions relating to the vote of no confidence against him, which he survived on a technicality, Msimanga said that from the outset he had indicated that he would not sit in his office every day and wait for motions to be brought against him, or be distracted by them. He said he would continue harnessing his skills to serve the people of Tshwane and Johannesburg, if elected Gauteng premier.
“I’m concentrating on serving the people of the city and now the people of Gauteng. I am not concerned with motions of no confidence. I am only concerned about leaving a solid ground for my successor.”
Msimanga embarked on his listening tour as a number of scandals rocked his government in Tshwane.
In June an urgent investigation mandated by Tshwane city manager Moeketsi Mosola exonerated Msimanga of any wrongdoing in the controversial appointment of former City of Tshwane chief of staff Marietha Aucamp.
Aucamp quit her position in May 2018 after revelations that she did not have the qualifications for the position.
All the while a scandal involving billions of rand, and for which Mosola was made to shoulder the blame, was simmering. About two months after the Aucamp saga Msimanga recommended that Mosola be suspended.
Mosola was accused of disregarding the city’s supply chain management policy after engineering company GladAfrica won a contract to roll out of the city’s capital infrastructure programmes at a cost of R3.7-billion.
DA members in Slovo Park said the scandals meant little compared with decades of plundering by the ANC government. They said they were not defending the Tshwane mayor, but asking only that South Africans be fair to him.
Msimanga acknowledged the housing backlog in Gauteng and said this would form part of his discussions with Mashaba.
“The backlog in Gauteng is of genuine and serious concern.” DM