Politicians and politics have really bad reputations and I have to agree it is largely our own fault. In my short time in local government politics I have seen first hand how the old adage: “Your opposition sits across from you but your enemy sits behind you.”
I have witnessed first hand how politics of the stomach will drive people to the brink of desperation. Where they lose sight of the overall goals of the Democratic Alliance. Over the last few months the issue of confidence in political leaders has been at the forefront of our local political discourse.
Confidence can best be described as a belief in your own ability to be successful. In political leadership, we rely on the confidence of those who are elected to lead. The party political nature of South Africa makes this complex as we put mayoral, premier and presidential candidates forward as the face of our campaigns. By putting their faces on posters we tell the electorate that those are the leaders that we have confidence in to lead.
In 2016 when I ran as part of the Democratic Alliance for a seat in the council of the City of Cape Town, I bought into the values of the party. Values of: Freedom, Fairness, Opportunity and Diversity. These values underpin our manifesto and have been incorporated into our Integrated Development Plan. As a DA government under the leadership of a seasoned politician, freedom fighter and social justice activist, Mayor Patricia de Lille has led with confidence, helping us achieve greater success in the city.
Through her decisive leadership she has led along with her mayoral committee, sub-council chairpersons and councillors to ensure the residents of Cape Town receive improved services in a city that competes with the best in the world. We cannot deny that we live in a beautiful city but we also live in a city plagued by massive inequality and poverty. The tale of two cities is visible when one realises that apartheid spatial planning has left us with more than 270 informal settlements; it left with us communities separated by railway lines that draw a blunt line through those who have world-class infrastructure in places like Wynberg, Claremont and Bishopscourt and those who live in council-owned rental stock on the dusty, dirty streets of the Cape Flats in Hanover Park, Parkwood and Vrygrond.
This legacy can be reversed by addressing apartheid spatial planning head on. Mayor de Lille has led this process by re imaging the structure of the city to ensure greater parity in service delivery. Making sure that Khayelitsha gets an equal share of the budget to Somerset West. She led the Organisational Development and Transformation Plan to ensure that all areas are treated equally and that the staff in the city respond to all residents as customers who we serve.
Through a progressive social housing agenda, the m,mayor and the Transport Development Authority have led a new approach to housing and spatial planning. The Transit Oriented Development approach calls on us to pay greater attention to the dire need for inclusive housing and accessible transport in Cape Town. This approach needs all of us to buy-in, for it to succeed.
Political confidence can only be tested at the ballot box. I believe that in the 2016 Local Government Elections, the people of Cape Town demonstrated clear political confidence in the Democratic Alliance under the leadership and face of our campaign: Mayor Patricia de Lille.
This confidence allowed us to take a 66.6% majority in the council and this confidence was an endorsement from the public of the work Mayor de Lille and her government did in the previous term. In politics your success will depend on the electorate and we will soon be able to see what confidence the people have in us next year when they cast their ballots in the 2019 Elections. Irrespective of what the polls and pundits say, the voters will speak. The people on whose behalf we govern will make their voices heard. I will be out on the campaign trail to convince voters that the Democratic Alliance is the only alternative to the African National Congress to save South Africa and create a country where opportunities are available and where inclusive economic growth is underpinned by the rule of law.
I work in one of the most difficult informal areas in the city and this week I witnessed the impact Mayor de Lille has on communities. Through her trademark innovation, she took her Mayoral Pop Up Office to the people of Masiphumelele. There she engaged with community members on their issues with the city and allowed us as councillors to help solve service delivery problems on the ground. This approach meant that government left our offices and we went into the community. I have to say this community has not always had confidence in government but the confidence they showed in Mayor de Lille convinced me that she is the real deal. This interaction not only made the mayor more accessible but also was an opportunity for her to be integrated into a community with massive challenges. She was able to see firsthand how policy and government decision impact the lives of those most vulnerable.
Confidence in political caucuses is a strange and elusive concept. It is shrouded in horse-trading, stomach politics and pure backstabbing. I hope that most public representatives will always remember what is best for their communities, the city and our project to save South Africa. I am not blind to the accusations and charges against the mayor and I am eagerly looking forward to the party disciplinary process that needs to get under way. I have not seen any evidence that indicates wrong-doing on the part of the mayor and also await the final report by the external investigation the city has commissioned. Whenever accusations of corruption rear its head, it must be reported to the police and investigated by the competent authorities.
If you accuse someone of corruption you must have the evidence to substantiate that accusation. In line with the value of fairness we must allow those accused the right to defend themselves. I do hope this happens.
The motion of no confidence in the mayor that was on the council agenda for Thursday has no new information compared to the last one. If and when it ever goes ahead, I am bound by my conscience and will again vote against the motion. We have to get on with the business of governing to improve the lives of our residents. We have a long way to go and it is a difficult road ahead. When will council – and more specifically the DA caucus – get to service delivery and not internal squabbles? We are behaving in the very same way we accuse the ANC of doing, using the spaces we govern to fight party political battles.
The external investigation mandated through a council resolution brings a question of procedural fairness: how do you vote or come to the conclusion to have a motion of no confidence in someone when the processes are not allowed to be concluded? The pending motion of no confidence goes against the fairness that the constitution of the country guarantees and the DA champions.
Until the process has concluded, how many members are going to sponsor more motions of no confidence and how many times are we as politicians entrusted by the people going to make the same mistakes?
Confidence is a very personal thing and Eleanor Roosevelt said: “You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along’.” DM