2022 STATE OF THE CITIES
Joburg will rise from the ruins, says Mayor Mpho Phalatse
In her State of the City Address on Thursday, Johannesburg Mayor Mpho Phalatse vowed to return the city to good health. She is picking up from years of neglect, mistreatment and abuse of South Africa’s economic hub.
Johannesburg Mayor Mpho Phalatse described the City of Johannesburg as the most remarkable city in the world, with infinite diversity and opportunity. She said, however, that the city was now in ruins from long-standing challenges of neglect, crime, poverty, service delivery failures, lack of housing, lawlessness, electricity and water problems, and unemployment.
“The City of Johannesburg… attracts visitors from all over the world — 55% from other parts of Gauteng, 36% from other provinces, and 9% from beyond our borders. They all come in search of golden opportunities synonymous with the city’s promise of gold. However, following years of neglect, mistreatment and abuse, our city now lies in ruins,” she said during her State of the City Address on Thursday.
Phalatse, whose DA-led multiparty coalition was elected to replace former ANC mayor Mpho Moerane’s administration in November 2021, has tackled some of the city’s most complex problems, such as the culture of non-payment for electricity and the reversal of the appointments of more than 100 permanent employees; she claims the conversion of their employment contracts from fixed-term to permanent was irregular.
Speaking in the City’s Braamfontein council chambers, she said: “We acknowledge that this municipal administration is large and complex. It has authority over all constitutional functions assigned to it. It also has resources that enable it to deliver on mandates conferred by national government and provincial government, some of which are not fully funded.
“But it would be a profound mistake to assume that the council and its municipal administration can fix the city on its own. Partnership is often missing internally. Departments and entities must cooperate. Residents must receive real responses and not be… shoved from pillar to post. The entire municipality must work as a team.”
Phalatse said the Joburg multiparty coalition, consisting of the DA, ActionSA, IFP, ACDP, FF Plus, PA, UIM and ATM, had outlined a new vision of “A city of golden opportunities: A vibrant, safe and resilient city where the local government delivers a quality life for every resident.”
The multiparty government tabled its immediate programme of action, termed “The Golden Start”, with seven mayoral priorities committing to give residents, visitors, businesses and civil society:
- A city that gets the basics right;
- A safe city;
- A caring city;
- A business-friendly city;
- An inclusive city;
- A well-run city; and
- A smart city.
Getting basic service delivery right
Phalatse said the city was hard at work to ensure residents had access to basic rights including power and water supply. An energy mix would be introduced in partnership with independent power producers and small-scale energy generators to reduce the city’s reliance on Eskom.
City Power, she said, had extended its power purchase agreement with the Kelvin Power Station by 24 months. The city government would invest at least R2.8-billion in the next three financial years towards addressing water infrastructure backlogs.
Phalatse said the city had made progress in sorting out the pothole problem, but still had more work to do.
She announced that Joburg’s waste management entity Pikitup would increase its fleet for efficiency and continue to collect waste from every household, including those in informal settlements.
Ensuring a safe city
The mayor decried crime, lawlessness and the spate of attacks on the city’s critical infrastructure. She said 1,800 Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department (JMPD) officers had been deployed into the inner city to restore law and order and create a safe environment.
“There are thousands of CCTV cameras around the city that are not linked; we have therefore started linking different cameras to the Public Safety Integrated Intelligence Operations Centre. This will enable better detection and response to crime.”
An inclusive city
Phalatse said the city would pursue inclusionary housing models in key economic nodes. The housing department is targeting 10 informal settlements and is planning upgrades that entail the provision of permanent municipal services such as water sanitation, lighting and roads.
Phalatse said the city was committed to a just and equitable society through the Health and Social Development portfolio and was reviewing its policies on homelessness, child services, food resilience and older persons.
In the meantime, she said, the migration of retirement villages from the Department of Housing to that of social development would be fast-tracked and in the new financial year, The Department of Social Development would constitute an LGBTQIA+ advisory committee to look after the interests of this often-marginalised group.
She said that although the city was in an economically constrained environment, it was obliged by law to deliver services to all residents, and was looking at alternative funding schemes as loan markets were averse to lending money to municipalities while grants from the provincial and national spheres were shrinking.
The mayor pleaded with residents to pay their taxes to avoid services being cut off and to improve the city’s economic standing.
“The city can and will be restored, with each of us doing our part,” said Phalatse.
“We need to start by taking responsibility and uniting behind a common mission — to love our city, to nurture, cherish and protect her for generations to come.” DM