President Zuma’s “careless and self-serving” cabinet reshuffle shows that he and the ANC have lost touch with reality and with South African citizens, Executive Mayor of Johannesburg Herman Mashaba told a GIBS Forum. “Instead of leading us to prosperity, they have led us to junk status and into further economic turmoil.
“We need to be active citizens and not remain silent. We must have the strength to stand up say enough is enough,” Mashaba continued.
He added that the right to trade, work and have human dignity is enshrined in our Constitution. “This cannot happen if we are denied economic opportunities.”
Spatial transformation and a new vision for Johannesburg
Mashaba, who was appointed Mayor of Johannesburg last August, said the city has stagnant economic growth and unemployment that is spiraling out of control, whereas it should “be a city of golden opportunity for all our residents.”
Economic growth to create jobs and protect the dignity of residents was essential, Mashaba said. He has set a 5% growth target for the city by 2021, as he believes “employment and entrepreneurship are the greatest liberators.”
Mashaba said his first proposed budget represents his deep desire to get Johannesburg working. “Our city is plagued by massive inequality which we have to confront head on.” As spatial and income inequality divide the city, a minimum of 60% of capital expenditure would be directed to traditionally poor and underserviced communities. “We must create diverse communities, connected to economic opportunities,” Mashaba said.
The revitalisation of the inner city was a key lever for economic growth. Mashaba explained that the inner city could offer low-cost, high-rise housing to redress spatial inequalities and provide accommodation to the missing middle, as well as low-rental office space for startup companies. “The inner city can be a place for home, work and play and become a model for a vibrant post-Apartheid city.”
The Mayor’s initiatives to address infrastructure challenges include improving sanitation in informal settlements; address crime and corruption by increasing visible policing; fast track housing development and electrification; creating an effective public transport system and addressing traffic concerns, and promoting the use of technology to encourage innovation.
Active citizenry and overcoming corruption
Mashaba, a successful entrepreneur, said he made a conscious decision to get involved in shaping the future of the country by running for mayor in 2016: “I cannot sit on the sidelines and watch South Africa being destroyed.”
He had decided to be an active citizen as he was discouraged by the economic direction the country was taking. “This country needs a new value system. We are facing a moral challenge.”
Corruption in government robs citizens, especially the poor, of their quality of life, he said. Money stolen and misused by the previous administration could have been directed towards creating economic growth for the city, but had rather been wasted on irregular and fruitless expenditure. “Losses due to past corruption will run into the billions of rands,” he said. “Leadership was based on patronage, not competency. We are continuing to uncover cases of corruption involving senior people.”
Mashaba said under his new administration, corruption would no longer be swept under the carpet or dealt with by a slap on the wrist.
“The only way to get the economy growing is to take it back from criminal elements, and it appears the national and provincial government are determined to sabotage my efforts,” Mashaba said. “I am not here to create friendships, but to serve the residents of the city. I have a constitutional responsibility to protect the people of Johannesburg,” he added.
“We want to kick start the economy and place people in a position they can be proud of, especially the poor. With the right political will and resident’s support, I strongly believe our vision is achievable,” Mashaba said.
Becoming an active citizen and taking responsibility for the country was a decision everyone had to take individually: “If you are worried you are going to be insulted, I tell you, you are risking the future. Imagine what country your children will inherit.”
He concluded that the 2019 national elections would be a defining moment for this country. “I am totally convinced that the ANC is history.”