While Gauteng Premier David Makhura may speak with a forked tongue, his actions and inactions in undermining the City are a much better indication of where we stand, writes Herman Mashaba.
It was quite nauseating to read Premier David Makhura’s lamenting of the poor working relationship between the City of Johannesburg and his Gauteng provincial government.
My nausea wasn’t merely a product of his self-pity, but rather the fact that the Gauteng provincial government has worked systematically to undermine the City at every turn.
His expression of hurt and shock that there is not a “good faith” working relationship is as transparent as a glass, to quote the expression. Especially given that his government has generated this situation with dedication and focus.
If you doubt my assessment, consider the following eight examples where the City is being undermined by the actions or inactions of Makhura’s government:
1. Consecutive MECs of Cogta trying to place the city under provincial administration
Since June 2018 the Gauteng provincial government has been trying to investigate the City in order to place it under administration. To date, the substance behind these efforts has been a set of complaints levelled by the ANC in Johannesburg.
No effort was made to determine whether there was a prima facie case to be answered for, after all the allegations came from their comrades.
Now MEC Maile has set up a committee of inquiry to investigate claims of wrongdoing in all Gauteng municipalities. Sounds non-partisan, except for the fact that before it has started he has made the statement that he has “more than enough to place Tshwane and Johannesburg under administration”.
I note that MEC Maile could not resist the urge to attend the council meeting last week for the motion of no confidence the ANC had filed against me.
2. MEC of Human Settlements reducing our housing grants
In the 2016/17 financial year, the City received a human settlements development grant (HSDG) of over R500m per year. This has been cut with every year the multi-party government has been in office, to the point that it now sits at less than half of this.
As a matter of fact in November 2018, the former MEC of human settlements made the unilateral decision remove R180m of this grant mid-way through the financial year. No process was followed. Fortunately for the City, after Makhura ignored our efforts to engage him in good faith, National Treasury came to our defence and our funds were returned.
3. Premier ignores pleas to assist in NPA refusal to prosecute cases of fraud and corruption
The City has over 6 000 cases of fraud, corruption and wrongdoing under investigation by our forensics unit, involving more than R34bn. I, personally, engaged Makhura to assist with the NPA’s failure to prosecute our cases. I never received so much as a response.
His very own former MEC of Cogta overturned a decision of council to fire a former MMC and ANC councillor who had hired an unqualified relative in a position, and then spent millions in legal fees trying to get rid of the relative when relationships soured.
On no occasion has the Gauteng provincial government offered any form of support in our efforts to ensure those who looted the City face their day in court.
4. Undocumented persons
When I first raised the issue of undocumented persons in Johannesburg, Makhura was amongst the many who criticised my remarks and labelled me “xenophobic”. When he realised that residents actually want this issue tackled, there he was with law enforcement conducting raids in the Inner City.
I have written to Makhura frequently to solicit his support in our efforts to raise the matters of our porous borders and the failures of the Department of Home Affairs to document people. Never once have I received any form of support.
5. Efforts to provincialise our ambulance services
Recently, the MEC of Health has announced the intention to provincialise our ambulance services in Johannesburg.
The City has run these services for many years, on a grant offered by the provincial government which covered a fraction of the costs.
Dates were announced in the near future, despite there not being plans in place that would afford the City any confidence that the service would be provided to our residents. No idea was offered as to what the City would do with the many ambulances the City had procured over the years nor the employees the City has appointed to operate them.
One only needs to look at the state of provincial hospitals or recollect the horrors of Life Esidimeni to realise why we have elected to fight against this for our residents.
6. Inner City
The Inner City Rejuvenation Plan came to life last week with the first four properties now putting spades in the ground. This was a huge moment after two years of work and promises to convert the slums of our Inner City into spaces of affordable accommodation, student housing and small business spaces. In these two years, the City has not received the smallest level of support from the Gauteng provincial government, based in the very same Inner City.
7. Illegal mining
The City faces a crisis of illegal mining which threatens large parts of Johannesburg along the mining belt. These illegal miners continue to operate criminally, blasting in close proximity to the fuel and gas lines that run under our city.
You would think that something which threatens human life on this scale would perhaps be the one occasion that gets the Gauteng provincial government to assist the City. However, you would be wrong.
8. Counterfeit goods killing our economy
In an economy which is producing slow growth and high levels of unemployment, the extent to which counterfeit goods are being produced is massively problematic. I have been involved in many JMPD operations with the SAPS and Customs, with single buildings holding tens of millions of rands in counterfeit goods. Like all of the matters described, no support is forthcoming from the Gauteng provincial government in combatting this form of lawlessness that threatens the prospects of the unemployed.
Having read this far, perhaps you will understand why it is that I am nauseated by Makhura’s sad reflections on the working relationship with the City. While I can demonstrate the length of our efforts to engage his government in “good faith”, he and his MECs have worked to undermine our multi-party government from day one.
Makhura speaks of cooperation, and yet none appears to be forthcoming in the two-way relationship envisioned by the Constitution between provincial and local government. Perhaps what he really means is that we ought to operate like a branch of the provincial government and do as we are told. Unfortunately, if our voters wanted his party to run the City they would have made it so.
Over many years, I have come to learn that actions matter more than words. So when Makhura stands up and speaks of the tragedy of our working relationship, I will judge him by his actions. While Makhura may speak with a forked tongue, his actions and inactions in undermining the City are a much better indication of where we stand.
– Mashaba is executive mayor of the City of Johannesburg.
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