City of Johannesburg Executive Mayor Geoff Makhubo’s Daily Maverick Opinionista (“Johannesburg is not falling apart – it is in the process of rebirth after the demise of a white city”, 30 June 2021) shows not only that he is completely out of touch with reality, but is clearly living in the same state of denial he deployed at the Zondo Commission to claim that there was nothing wrong with taking a bribe for himself and the ANC.
We’ve become all too familiar with the ANC’s standard race-baiting to cover for their failures. They have no reasonable or factual response to fair criticism and democratic accountability. No acknowledgement of their failures and promise to do better – just calling all residents racist when they ask for the services we all pay for and the city we all deserve.
As a ward councillor in the City of Johannesburg, I speak with residents every day, give advice on how to get services from the city, escalate their issues to the officials who care and get things done, and through this I understand their frustrations with not getting the basic services they deserve.
This is not because they live in some imagined idea of the past, but because the mayor of Johannesburg has taken an oath to serve them and provide not only the services that they deserve, but a city that works, a city that provides the right environment to live a good, healthy life, to feel secure in your home, and a city we can ultimately all be proud of.
I’m glad that the mayor acknowledges our crumbling power grid, water network and roads. Again, the reality is that this is due to the ANC not getting the basics right and leaving us with a R200-billion backlog of repairs and upgrades. Our city has been growing faster than any other metro in the country because it is the city of opportunities, but investment has not kept pace with this growth.
We see with the current power crisis, old substations that catch fire, cables that melt, repairs done with copper wire and tape, quick fixes that bypass safety measures and result in residents getting shocked by their taps, or worse. City Power depots are out of money for new minisubs or even basic tools and equipment so that technicians can fix faults quickly.
It’s no wonder that residents and businesses are either providing these services themselves or looking to move out of Johannesburg to Midvaal or the Western Cape where things just work.
Does this mean they yearn for a terrible past of oppression and racial inequality? No — none of us ever wants that back. We are all firmly committed to a nonracial, equal society where the government helps to provide the environment in which we all can flourish. No excuses, just quality services delivered on time and on budget, planned maintenance and upgrades which reassure residents and investors, and common-sense approaches to everyday problems.
This means active partnerships — not governing at people for the benefit of the few, but governing with people for the benefit of all residents. The constant decline of Johannesburg’s inner city needs active partnerships with business and people who work there and understand the reality on the ground. It means taking the decaying and dilapidated buildings and partnering with the private sector to restore them, while deploying cleaners and Johannesburg Metropolitan Police Department officers to deal with crime and grime.
Homelessness, hunger, drug abuse and other social problems require whole-society approaches where the government works with NGOs and community organisations to bring expertise from those working on the ground so we can build connected communities that have the capacity and resources to deal with these issues.
Yes, the GDS 2040 (Growth and Development Strategy 2040) is a good plan, but like so many plans without the resources and leadership to make it a reality, it’s not worth the paper it’s printed on.
Wake up, Geoff — Johannesburg is on the decline. But not all hope is lost. A commitment to investing where it counts, delivering quality services and upholding the rule of law is possible. This will arrest the decline and provide all residents with the city they deserve — the city that Johannesburg can and must be.
But that takes honest leadership and a commitment to clean, well-run government — which is currently sorely lacking. DM