STATE OF THE CITY

Joburg: Makhubo talks of post-Covid city but dream lacks detail

By Greg Nicolson 4 May 2021

Johannesburg Mayor Geoff Makhubo. (Photo: Gallo Images/Deaan Vivier)

In his State of the City Address on Tuesday, Johannesburg Mayor Geoff Makhubo invited residents to imagine a post-pandemic reality where life is better than before. Just months before the municipal elections, the mayor’s lofty vision was light on detail.

Makhubo described the Covid-19 pandemic as an opportunity to transform the country’s most populated metropolitan municipality and implement initiatives that address long-standing challenges of service delivery, unemployment, housing and crime.

“The world after Covid-19 will be different, as it is after any disaster. And Covid-19 will accelerate changes that have been brewing in cities for a long time. The result will be a new kind of city, different [from] what we have seen before,” he said during his State of the City Address on Tuesday.

Makhubo, whose ANC-led coalition was elected to replace former DA mayor Herman Mashaba’s administration in December 2019, tackled some of the city’s most complex problems, such as apartheid spatial development, but emphasised a return to ANC policies rather than offering new solutions.

Speaking in the City’s Braamfontein council chambers, he took a number of jabs at Mashaba’s administration, saying the agenda to improve the quality of life for all residents had been “disrupted” when the DA mayor was elected in August 2016.

“We inherited an institution not only lacking experience, but one that was riddled with governance failures, in areas of procurement, as evidenced by the challenges around fleet management. The policies of insourcing, although well intended, good intentions were peppered with maladministration and corruption threatening the stability of the institution from within and outside,” said Makhubo.

“Moreover, the city’s internal systems neared collapse, low revenue collection, financial mismanagement was high, record irregular expenditure, absence of the City on all international platforms, and demoralised local government staff among a myriad of challenges.”

Makhubo said Mashaba’s election was the first disruption on Joburg’s path to building an inclusive and transformed city, but the most significant disruption was Covid-19, with the Level 5 lockdown implemented months after Makhubo’s election exacerbating the service delivery and financial challenges he claimed to have inherited from the DA.

“The disruptions, crisis and emergencies have taught us one valuable lesson. We must build a better tomorrow for us to thrive. As we move into the second decade of our [Growth and Development Strategy], we need to ensure that our vision of the future can be realised,” said the mayor.

Makhubo listed six priorities for his administration before the local government elections on 27 October 2021: Defeat Covid-19, forge new economic pathways, entrench the transformational agenda, ensure high- impact service delivery, restore community trust in government and confront the digital divide.

The City was in talks with Eskom about City Power taking over the energy giant’s provision of electricity in areas such as Soweto, Orange Farm and Ivory Park, which have been hit by repeated outages under Eskom’s “load reduction” programme.

City Power was exploring how to build its energy-generating capacity to reduce outages.

Roads and services

Makhubo said the quality of roads is “worrisome” and noted the City’s recent partnership with Discovery Insure and Dialdirect to fix potholes. He announced the return of the [email protected] programme, a wide-scale temporary employment programme largely related to Pikitup which Mashaba claimed was abusive and pushed to insource. Pikitup would start servicing previously uncovered areas.

The mayor decried the scourges of crime and gender-based violence and said the City had reintroduced the Jozi10+ programme, in which 10 metro officers will be deployed in each of the City’s 135 wards to respond to local challenges.

On housing and spatial transformation, Makhubo said the City will pursue inclusionary housing models in key economic nodes, but he offered no details on housing targets.

Instead, he emphasised the provision of serviced sites, which the provincial government has been slow to roll out, and elaborated on efforts to prevent land occupations and building hijackings.

“Water supply is crucial to the lifeblood of the city. While we acknowledge that there are areas that continue to experience water challenges, we commit ourselves to responding to this with long-term solutions,” he said.

Regarding the City’s finances, he said it collected 86.3% of revenue in 2019/20 and had a surplus of R3.7-billion. The City’s assets had increased over the year by 5%.

Makhubo, who has been implicated in a number of corruption allegations before he was elected mayor, said tackling corruption is a top priority and the City is strengthening its risk, audit and compliance units.

Mashaba responds

Mashaba, whose ActionSA will contest the municipal elections, claimed Makhubo’s address confirmed that the City was defined by “crime, grime, lawlessness and hopelessness”. He said the ANC was reversing the gains achieved under his government. 

Instead, Makhubo seems more concerned with returning to the ‘good old days’ of self-promotion, branding Johannesburg as “A World African City” while residents continue to have their dignity stripped away by poor living conditions and worsening access to employment opportunities,” he said.

“There is now no doubt that Makhubo and his ANC cronies will milk the City’s coffers to serve the ANC’s election campaign.”

The former mayor noted that Makhubo’s company was paid in a deal with the City’s IT service provider, EOH, while he was a city councillor – a deal that has been scrutinised at the Zondo Commission.

“One struggles to understand how corruption is to be ended within the City of Joburg when at the very top the mayor is one of the most corrupt individuals,” said Mashaba.

ANC response

The ANC in Johannesburg welcomed Makhubo’s address, saying he was correct to point out the weaknesses of the system he inherited.

Spokesperson Sasabona Manganye said the mayor was “in a quest to rebuild a world-class African city” and on a mission to improve service delivery, registering “innumerable” achievements since coming into office. DM

Gallery

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DAYS OF ZONDO

Joburg Mayor Geoff Makhubo took corrupt payments from EOH in reward for city tenders, commission evidence leader contends

By Greg Nicolson

"The wonder is not that the field of stars is so vast but that man has measured it." ~ Anatole France