DA councillors gave their alliance partners in Cope, the ACDP, IFP, UDM and Freedom Front Plus a standing ovation on Tuesday after Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba expressed his “most profound appreciation” during the State of the City Address (SOCA).
They were slower to rise when he thanked the EFF and AIC, which vote in Johannesburg on an issue-by-issue basis, but the DA members eventually stood and applauded those who put the mayor in power.
Mashaba was delivering his third SOCA since the EFF backed his bid for mayor in August 2016. The DA hopes to replicate his Johannesburg model in Gauteng if the ANC falls below 50% in the 8 May election.
“After the past two-and-a-half years, it is my hope that the coalition government becomes the future of politics in South Africa because it produces a better government,” Mashaba said in his address.
Speaking about the 2016 elections, the mayor said voters had supported a coalition “as a means to check two decades of arrogance that had arisen from single-party dominance” after the previous government displayed “arrogance, corruption and neglect”.
The theme of Mashaba’s 2019 SOCA was “real change” and the mayor outlined his administration’s work thus far and its future plans, which stem predominantly from DA policies with some influence from the EFF.
The mayor said unemployment reduced in Johannesburg in 2018 by 1.1% while economic growth grew from 1.1% the previous year to 1.4%. He said the city is on track to achieve its goal of R16-billion facilitated investment in the current financial year.
On housing, Mashaba said 6,261 mixed-income housing units have been built since his government took office and 6,659 title deeds have been delivered, up from the 5,145 mentioned in the 2018 address.
He emphasised his plans for inner-city redevelopment, saying 154 of 500 derelict buildings in the city have been released to private developers through long-term leases to increase the provision of low-cost housing and affordable business rentals.
“I am immensely proud to stand before you and be able to say that, in six months from now, our iconic skyline will feature the cranes of construction,” said Mashaba, reiterating his previous commitments to turn the CBD into a construction zone.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is Real Change,” said Mashaba, 22 times.
To avoid load shedding, the city is negotiating sourcing energy directly from the Kelvin independent power producer. The length of roads classified as poor or very poor has been reduced by 806 kilometres under the coalition government and the Johannesburg Roads Agency (JRA) has allocated R1.2-billion to upgrade roads in the next three years. Mashaba said traffic light downtime had reduced by 20% under his administration.
The EFF has pushed for extended operating hours at clinics and after an initial pilot phase, the operating hours at 22 clinics have been extended, with another four to be added within the financial year. Meeting another EFF commitment, each of Johannesburg’s seven regions will have a mobile clinic by July 2019.
“There can be no doubt, that this City is now moving in the right direction. After many years of this City being led down the wrong path, this is something that must be celebrated,” said Mashaba, who emphasised the challenges inherited from the ANC.
DA Gauteng leader John Moodey on Tuesday put Mashaba’s speech in the context of the upcoming elections.
“What has been achieved by Mayor Mashaba’s administration shows that the DA works and coalition governments do indeed work. Change is possible, and on 8 May the people of Gauteng will be able to usher in this kind of change across the whole province,” said Moodey.
The ANC’s Johannesburg spokesperson, Jolidee Matongo, accused Mashaba of using the SOCA to campaign for the elections. ANC councillors staged a walkout after the mayor said immigration challenges won’t be tackled “until a different party occupies the Union Buildings”.
In a statement released ahead of Mashaba’s address, Matongo accused the mayor of misleading the public about the state of the city.
“This administration is neither responsive nor pro-poor as it continues to divert benefits meant for the poor and the most vulnerable members of society,” said Matongo.
He said that under the “DA-EFF marriage” Johannesburg suffered from poor financial management, had failed to spend a number of its development budgets, saw staff revolving through key positions, and that City Power, the JRA and Pikitup are in disarray.
Johannesburg has been the most stable of the coalitions the DA led in the metros after 2016, with the EFF removing the DA’s Athol Trollip in Nelson Mandela Bay and threatening to remove former Tshwane mayor Solly Msimanga.
On 8 May voters will decide whether any party deserves a majority in Gauteng. If the ANC dips below 50%, the government will be decided by negotiations. DM
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Terry Pratchett forged his own sword from iron and meteorites purely for the occasion of the awarding of his knighthood.