Opinionista Lebogang Maile 25 January 2018

The Democratic Alliance campaigns in poetry and governs in prose

Perhaps it is time that we acknowledge that the DA is living up to former New York Mayor Mario Cuomo’s statement that “you campaign in poetry and you govern in prose.” The party has clearly over-promised and is now finding itself hopelessly under-delivering.

In William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, in his first soliloquy, Hamlet, speaking of the state of affairs in Denmark, says the following poignant words, “How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable, seem to me all the uses of this world! Fie on ‘tah fie! ’Tis an unweeded garden that grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature possess it merely.” In uttering these words Hamlet is addressing the state of decay in Denmark, describing it as an “unweeded garden”, a garden once picturesque and beautiful, but which has now become overgrown and wild with plants that are parasitic and not easy on the eye.

Looking at the perilous state of DA-run municipalities in Johannesburg and Cape Town, one can’t help but express the same sentiments as Shakespeare’s Hamlet. In the City of Johannesburg, since Mayor Herman Mashaba took over and positioned himself as a crusader against corruption, there has been a noticeable decline in service delivery, with the poorest and most marginalised citizens of Johannesburg being the most affected.

We seem to be jumping from one crisis to another, with no end in sight to the chaos that has reigned since Mashaba took over. From power outages to water shortages that have affected Johannesburg citizens across all spectrums, Mashaba and the DA seem to have no clue as to how to govern effectively, efficiently and with the best interests of the people of Johannesburg at heart.

The recent firing of former Member of the Mayoral Committee (MMC) for Finance, Rabelani Dagada, with allegations of nepotism and undue influence in procurement processes, is a clear indicator of the uncertainty and instability which Mashaba and the DA have introduced to governance in the City of Johannesburg, all of this happening while the finances of the municipality are in a complete shambles. It is worth reminding everyone that the ANC-led administration under former Johannesburg Mayor, Parks Tau, left the City of Johannesburg’s finances in a very healthy state when they departed office in 2016 and in just under a year and a half, Mashaba and the DA have mismanaged those finances to the point where the City is now in complete crisis.

Coupled with that, in the same period, Mashaba has managed to fire two other MMCs, Anthony Still, former MMC for Environment and Infrastructure, and Sharon Peetz, former MMC for Economic Development, who left under a cloud as the DA continues to show its incapacity to govern competently in a city that is the economic hub, not just of South Africa, but the African continent as a whole.

Down in the Cape, the furore around Mayor Patricia de Lille, with allegations of covering up corruption and rank incompetence leading to the DA Federal Council charging her, has once again exposed the DA as a party of white privilege and the status quo, with the mostly white, male, liberal DA establishment seemingly fighting back against the winds of change that have seemingly been sweeping through the party, as the DA’s public posture would have us believe.

Witness the manner in which the DA handled the disciplinary matter concerning Premier Helen Zille and those of De Lille and Mbali Ntuli. There are clear discrepancies between the way in which Zille was treated and how both Ntuli and De Lille have been treated, as the old, liberal, male, white DA establishment exposes the DA for what it truly is, with the younger, black contingent which the party has paraded as evidence of change within the party being seen as a threat and therefore increasingly marginalised. The more things change, the more they stay the same, as the popular cliché goes.

Not only that, the DA has also shown itself to be completely inept when it comes to issues of governance, contrary to what they would have the public believe, in the manner in which they have completely mismanaged the water crisis in the Cape. They would do well to heed the words of Oxford University professor Ian Goldin when he said, “In many cases, water stress is more about politics, economics, behaviour and governance than absolute water scarcity. Better planning is needed, to allocate water where societal need is greatest, and to allow trade-offs between alternative uses.” Perhaps it is time that we acknowledge that the DA is living up to former New York Mayor Mario Cuomo’s statement that “you campaign in poetry and you govern in prose”. The party has clearly over-promised and is now finding itself hopelessly under-delivering.

Looking at the shambolic state of the DA run municipalities in both Cape Town and Johannesburg, voters would do well to consider carefully what kind of society and environment they would like to live in, when they cast their ballot in 2019, as the DA itself is clearly incapable of delivering on our people’s hopes and aspirations. The governance failures in Cape Town and Johannesburg, along with the consequences therein, lead one to conclude, as Shakespeare’s Hamlet did, that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark (Cape Town/Johannesburg under DA leadership)”. DM

Lebogang Maile is the Gauteng MEC for Economic Development, Environment, Agriculture and Rural Development; and a Provincial Executive Committee member of the ANC in Gauteng.

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