Sunday, 05 June
We will soon industrialise and reindustrialise the city through accelerated service delivery and according to a set of principles, standards, policies and constraints used to guide the design, development and deployment and delivery, writes COPE’s City of Johannesburg caucus leader Colleen Makhubele.
A few days after its formation, Winston Churchill explained the purpose of one of the first modern-day historic coalitions: “You ask what our policy is? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny, never before surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory.”
Taking a leaf from the UK prime minister’s 1940 wartime coalition with Labour leader Clement Attlee as his deputy in an alliance that inevitably had its internal tensions, but achieved its objective of victory over Adolf Hitler, the City of Johannesburg’s multiparty coalition is committed to playing a central role in propelling the metro’s development agenda and ensuring the culture of democracy is entrenched.
Like Churchill, if you ask, “what is our aim? I can answer in one word: Victory”. Victory over corruption, cronyism and/or neo-patrimonialism, unemployment, poverty and personal insecurity and to deliver services such as the supply of electricity and water as well as refuse removal services.
Unity of purpose
We – the DA, FF Plus, ActionSA, COPE, IFP, ACDP and Patriotic Alliance – understand that in a modern society segmented by a multiplicity of ideological divisions and where political power is a zero-sum game, the logic of democratic representation means no group can afford to be excluded.
We understand we require unity of purpose, vision, discipline and political skill for the multiparty coalition to succeed.
We are committed to responsible governance that will act in the best interest of citizens and will ensure service delivery is not disproportionately skewed in favour of party loyalists.
Our policies and decisions will be informed by the reality on the ground. I mean the reality as viewed by people’s experiences, not theories and assumptions about them. We will listen to the people’s views.
We must distinguish between party functionary views and those of the citizens of Johannesburg.
We are cognisant that managing the coalition will always be a challenge, and principles must override sentiments and political party preferences.
We understand coalition governments, not only here, but also as seen around the world, are always accused of being indecisive for fear of upsetting the political apple cart.
Compromise and tolerance are the general challenges of most coalition governments where sometimes party political needs take priority over residents or voter’s needs.
We need to always understand voters need clear accountability so they can ask their leaders to deliver on election promises. We know coalition partners often give excuses for not delivering on their promises by pointing fingers at indecisive partners.
Of course, one major fear of coalitions has always been uncertainty, particularly the fear that coalition partners may withdraw support at any time when they find differences of opinion on political, ideological or administrative issues.
Because of different ideological beliefs, political consistency is difficult to achieve, leading to political instability.
Lest we forget that after the 2016 elections there were 27 hung councils. Coalition failures were clear for everyone to see in Nelson Mandela Bay, Johannesburg, and Tshwane, all displaying a high level of instability, ideological, policy and political infighting that resulted in frequent leadership changes of mayors, speakers, and members of mayoral committees.
There is no doubt we are an assemblage of disparate forces with diverse goals, visions and political skills. That is why we need discipline and unity to ensure effectiveness. Lack of unity among us can be a drag on development policy formulation and implementation of service delivery objectives.
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This is not surprising because, before the coalition, we had been deeply adversarial towards and mutually distrustful of one another.
Therefore, we need cohesive, disciplined and effective leaders, answerable to the voters.
Just for background, there are 278 municipalities in South Africa, comprising eight metropolitan, 44 districts and 226 local municipalities. Out of these, there are 66 hung municipalities – among them the key ones of Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni.
For example, Gauteng, home to 12.91 million people and boasting 24% of South Africa’s population, holds the crown as our country’s fastest population growth. Also, the province remains an economic hub and a nerve centre of commercial activity in our country, contributing about 35.7% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in South Africa and about 10% to the GDP of Africa.
For the multiparty coalition, the demographics of the province are an important indicator for measuring service delivery and human development. Indeed, mass in-migration has placed Johannesburg’s social services under strain.
Of course, according to StatsSA, the city has the largest share of the population at more than 36.4%, followed by Ekurhuleni at 25.7% and the City of Tshwane with 24%, with district municipalities, Sedibeng and West Rand, accounting for 7.5% and 6.5%, respectively.
Advantages of coalitions
The truth is there are more advantages of coalitions than disadvantages, particularly broader representation when big and small parties join hands in governance, share in policy making consensus creation, emphasise diversity and plurality in administration, as opposed to the autocratic rule of a single dominant party.
The quality of local government depends ultimately on the quality of councillors elected. We depend on them to ensure the value of local services and to ensure the local community’s needs are understood and respected by other levels of government and by the many other organisations that influence our lives.
A local government has a substantial impact on people’s lives by being responsible for local services such as clean streets, sanitation, water, waste management and recycling, public health, water and electricity, the maintenance of parks, roads and other public spaces, and the implementation of housing projects drawn up by national and provincial governments, economic development, roads maintenance, and much more.
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As a coalition, we are slowly gaining an awareness, understanding, and appreciation of each potential partner’s capabilities, limitations, and culture in advance of service delivery initiatives to enhance the success of future multinational coalition operations.
We understand mutual trust attained through relationships during coalition talks should foster more efficient interaction when building and sustaining service delivery.
The multiparty coalition government must boldly address corruption. This will set us apart from the previous regimes and restore citizens’ confidence in government.
Rooting out nepotism and patrimonialism should be a priority. It is one of the steps in the fight against poverty and inequality.
We support the province’s investment in education and skills development as pillars of prosperity and self-reliance.
Indeed, we know and understand frequent protests and demonstrations, sometimes violent, are reflective of popular perceptions that local governments have failed to fulfill their electioneering promises of good service delivery.
Professionalising city governance
For us, the provision of basic services such as water, sanitation, housing, health and poverty as a whole, are key to service delivery plans. The delivery of services such as human settlements, water, electricity, sanitation and access to roads is of primary concern to communities and residents.
Lee Kuan Yew, the founding father of modern Singapore, once remarked: “Only an efficient and effective government can provide the framework in which peoples can fulfill their needs.”
An efficient and effective metropolitan city can be fixed by professionalising its governance rather than politicising it. An efficient city can only be achieved through a strong focus and commitment to service delivery, governance and leadership.
We will soon industrialise and reindustrialise the city through accelerated service delivery and according to a set of principles, standards, policies and constraints used to guide the design, development and deployment and delivery.
– Colleen Makhubele is the COPE caucus leader and chair of chairs in the City of Johannesburg.
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