Opinionista Herman Mashaba 3 May 2016

Fighting for Jozi: My five top priorities

Since I started this column, I’ve begun to spell out my vision for the City of Johannesburg, and what the DA would do if elected. What now reveals itself clearly is how my five top priorities of job creation, service delivery, integrated transport, fighting crime, and education unfold directly from the party’s national vision.

In fact, they have already been implemented in municipalities where the DA governs. Despite the economic and leadership hurricanes that continue to batter South Africa, hope and reason prevails. The DA is ready to deliver on the promises contained in the Constitution, which is 20 years old this year. Never before has a party been so aligned, so in touch, and so alive to the hopes and dreams of the voters.

This is how my vision rests within the DA’s national vision:

Job Creation: I’ve announced that under the DA, the City of Johannesburg will target growth of up to 5% by 2017. We’ll audit all city-owned land and buildings to kick-start an economic revival, and bring citizens into the embrace of the city. Unused buildings will be put to use in place of expensive leases, and free space will be made available to small business and entrepreneurs.

Small businesses will receive preferential and specialised treatment, like rebates and low rents. By-laws that obstruct business will be reviewed and amended within 100 days. To bolster real broad-based empowerment, large supply-chain and procurement tenders will be carved up into a set of smaller contracts, so that many small businesses can compete for them fairly and transparently. Large-scale tender corruption will be consigned to the past.

In addition to this, the DA-led City of Johannesburg, like all other DA-led municipalities and metros, will create a comprehensive Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP), which fairly benefits all recipients.

We’ll also establish Local Economic Development (LED) one-stop shops to provide information on investment opportunities, licensing, land use, planning approval procedures, regulatory compliance investor information and business start-up advice to drive and promote job-creating investment.

The DA has already achieved this in office. The accessibility of senior officials and public representatives gave businesses, such as Heineken, Nampak and Everite, the assurance that the Midvaal municipality will be responsive to their needs and concerns. Midvaal boasts the lowest unemployment rate in Gauteng. On the other side of the country, the DA-run Western Cape has the lowest unemployment rate at 19%.

Service delivery: I’ve vowed that a free basket of basic services will be made available to residents who cannot afford to pay. The DA pledges a minimum of 50kWh of free electricity to run their homes and at least 6,000 litres of free water and, where necessary, rebates for the poor, disabled and pensioners based on a combination of property values and the level of household income.

We’ll also upgrade informal settlements with the aim of formalising them. We will not rest until we provide dignified sanitation, upgraded sewerage infrastructure, and reliable water and electricity. We’ll also innovate with ideas like ‘Brick Skin’ projects to keep people warm and insulated in the cold winter – just like we’ve done in the townships of Cape Town. We’ll bolster fire prevention through community fire-fighters on the township streets and fire sensor devices.

What do the facts tell us?

Staggeringly, the DA spent R3-billion on major upgrades last year. The cities of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Nelson Mandela Bay didn’t even spend one sixth of this amount. We also fixed more than the twice the number than these three metros put together. In office, we repair traffic lights and street lights in just 48 hours, and potholes within 24 hours.

Can you imagine if we were given the mandate to do this in Johannesburg?

Arising from this, The Internet of Everything will determine the future of successful cities. I’ve promised that by 2021 we will develop a customised software-defined network. All aspects of the city’s infrastructure will be connected. By centralising city data, we will improve service delivery from repairing potholes to energy saving.

In addition to this, the DA-led City of Johannesburg, like all other DA-led municipalities and metros, will use government infrastructure to connect disadvantaged communities to the internet, by using municipal facilities such as public libraries and clinics to create wi-fi hotspot hubs. We’ll partner with the private and nonprofit sectors to provide capped free data at universal hotspots in municipal buildings and other government facilities, allowing all residents to access the internet.

A world-class integrated transport system: A DA-led Johannesburg will introduce a ‘smart’ one-ticket system for all and will ensure that the poor have easy access to quality public transport and job opportunities. The city’s transportation technology and operational management will be streamlined.

In addition to this, the DA-led City of Johannesburg, like all other DA-led municipalities and metros, will look to provide registered workseekers with free transport within metros, so that they can find work more easily. We’ll also fight to give Johannesburg and other DA-run metros delegated control over train services.

Fighting crime: A DA-led Johannesburg will upgrade hijacked buildings into proper homes, slum lords will be targeted, and occupants will be treated firmly and compassionately – not turfed out by the Red Ants.

Law and order will rule Johannesburg like it does in every DA-run municipality and metro.

Safety and security data will be centralised to improve local policing and identify drug lords and gangs. We will implement digital technology to spot anomalies and pattern shifts to prevent crime and corruption.

We’ll stop corruption in the JMPD by beefing up an Integrity and Internal Investigations Unit. This will be directly accountable to the people through the mayor and open council committees. The unit will be empowered to fast-track an internal disciplinary system. Criminal charges against corrupt officers through the criminal justice system will be pursued. We’ll protect the police and keep them safe with body and vehicle dashboard cameras, so that they can keep us safe.

The DA marches to the drumbeat of accountability and democracy. So we’ll also ensure that all Municipal Public Accounts Committees (MPACs) are open to public scrutiny to increase transparency. Wherever the DA governs these MPACs will be chaired by an opposition councillor (that is not a DA representative) to enhance oversight on public spending.

A home for all: We’ll solve the housing crisis by passing ownership as quickly as possible, so that poor citizens can get their title deeds, own their own homes, and be empowered to access funds to establish their own businesses. We’ll undo housing list corruption by making the process transparent and open, and viewable by all.

The sceptics have asked me: can it be done? In the past three years, the DA-run City of Cape Town has given 15,000 title deeds to make the poor the real owners of their own homes. This is greater than anywhere else in South Africa.

Educational opportunities for everyone: Working with the private sector, I’ve pledged to establish early learning day care centres in every township where children will receive a nutritious meal, love, and a basic pre-school education. This project is particularly close to my heart. By preparing our children spiritually and mentally for the world, we’ll break the back of apartheid’s legacy.

Identifying a gap in the provision of quality childcare, the DA-run Midvaal Municipality in Gauteng has provided primary schools with workers from the Community Work Programme (CWP) to boost Early Childhood Development (ECD) initiatives.

This intervention provides young children from disadvantaged backgrounds with quality after-school care, allowing their parents to pursue work opportunities knowing that their children are in a safe learning environment. In addition, the Midvaal Municipality has developed an ECD curriculum that empowers teachers to provide better care at ECD centres.

The municipality also created a best practice safety check list to ensure that all these centres are safe and promote the development and health of children. Informal crèches are also supported and overseen by the municipality to maximise the development opportunities children are provided with.

It is fitting that I end with this beginning of life initiative. For if we can precisely identify where the first interventions should be made, we hold the power to write a new story from cradle to grave for every South African. That is exactly what ‘Change That Moves South Africa Forward Again’ achieves.

I invite all South Africans to be co-authors in the new chapter of change. DM

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