POLITICS

Herman Mashaba: I'm Still Getting Rid Of Corrupt ANC Council Cadres, 'One By One'

HuffPost SA spoke to Joburg's mayor on his one year anniversary in office.

23/08/2017 11:23 SAST | Updated 23/08/2017 13:29 SAST
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The newly elected City of Johannesburg Mayor Herman Mashaba celebrates during an inaugural council meeting on August 22, 2016 in Johannesburg.

Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba is seemingly untroubled by the ANC this week rating his first year in office 'dismal'.

Mashaba - the first non-ANC mayor of the city since 1994 - is upbeat and adamant the DA's ambitious plan for the city is working.

Since taking over the reigns, his office developed an ambitious 10-point plan, initiated an open tender process, announced a controversial scheme to evict illegal tenants in the inner-city, tackled the start of a 'pro-poor' billing scheme, and promised to restore integrity to the mayor's office.

Most of the mayor's plans are still in their infancy, but how does Mashaba think he's done so far? HuffPost SA spoke to the incumbent mayor this week who reflected on the challenges of transforming Africa's economic capital and his vision going forward.

"For me, coming from the private sector, being a capitalist for over 35 years, and growing up and developing my business, I thought I was a high-key individual. But I've just realized that my 35 years have actually just been a holiday," Mashaba said.

"I've realised that this is an almost impossible job, but at the same time it's the type of job that I feel extremely privileged for, to get this opportunity to save my country. Bacause this project is not about me being a mayor, this is a project about saving South Africa."

But yes, obviously there are those who struggle, because they are staunch ANC supporters, that obviously would want to see the perpetual stealing of state resources, but I am getting rid of them, one by one."

Mashaba had to step down as head of the Free Market Foundation, and his other private sector initiatives, to take over his new position -- a move that required a major attitude adjustment, he says. "I think in life one thing over the years that I've grown to understand is to adapt. I'm the kind of person who adapts to whatever situation faces me, and this is really one of those situations. I have a high regard for our consitutional framework, but at the same time I have a challenge with municipal systems."

'ANC cadres.. were adamant my administration would collapse by December'
He wasn't welcome by the ANC members, he says. "They [remaining ANC executives] had extended the contracts of their 56 senior managers. So I had inherited the budget which was rejected by the voters, and then I still had to cooperate with a management that were trained to be cadres. You can imagine that I was obviously being told by them at the time that my administration would collapse by December. Those are the kinds of issues I had to battle with, but fortunately I've learnt to adapt."

Have those same cadres now come to accept him?

"I think the majority of the people -- the city employs almost 30,000 people -- have come around, and I can assure you that 95 percent of them are great human beings. But there were these top structures, and I had to take difficult decisions to change the leadership, because I think human beings operate on the kind of leadership imposed on them," he said.

"So, I had to deal with those who were not prepared to be part of my administration. But yes, obviously there are those who struggle, because they are staunch ANC supporters, that obviously would want to see the perpetual stealing of state resources, but I am getting rid of them, one by one."

Read: Mashaba's Five Problems With The City Of Joburg

The hardest decision he's had to make so far?

"I make hard decisions every day, but the most difficult process was to pass my adjustment budget because the ANC budget was voted out. Obviously you are not allowed to come out with new projects and adjustments, you aren't allowed to make major changes. Fortunately enough my partners at the EFF came out with overwhelming support. Also, the passing of my first budget, which started on July 1, was one of the most difficult challenges. But once again, the EFF assisted me immensely again. They have been supportive, but not just supportive, their intellectual and physical support has been immeasurable to me."

Joburg's housing backlog and Mashaba's 'shock and awe tactics' controversy
Mashaba attracted criticism from late 2016 and into the new year over the city's alleged 'shock and awe' tactics in a bid to 'clean up' the city. He later claimed "so-called human rights lawyers being paid from proceeds of human and drug trafficking" were slowing the administration's capacity to "reclaim" inner-city buildings.

The mayor told HuffPost SA the city's plans for inner-city rejuvenation were not aimed at evicting poor people from the city but to revitalise dilapidated buildings in which 'shocking conditions' were unacceptable. The city instead, he said, would engage with the private sector to build low-cost housing.

READ: Mashaba's Allegations 'Ludicrous', 'Grossly Inappropriate' -- Human Rights Lawyers

"When I took over I discovered that I am sitting with a R170 billion infrastructural backlog. I'm sitting with over 300,000 houses backlog'", he reveals. "I'm sitting with 158,000 people who are unable to build and buy their own houses. And then I looked at the inner-city, which the ANC has allowed to deteriorate into a slum. And that's why I've declared that the only way forward to build houses for our people is to work with the private sector to reclaim the city.

"That's why everyday we are going around to understand who the owners of the buildings are, and if we can buy them we do. Within the next sixty days I am going to be issuing out requests for proposals to the private sector which can demonstrate to me how much money we will invest in the inner-city, how many units we can build for the poor, and indicate how much rental can be charged.

"I'm sitting with 158,000 people who are unable to build and buy their own houses. And then I looked at the inner-city, which the ANC has allowed to deteriorate into a slum.

"Because I am looking for accommodation for the missing middle, people who can't afford to buy houses, but also don't meet the requirements for an RDP house. They will have to demonstrate how many jobs they will create during instruction, and how many will be employed thereafter."

Read: Mashaba Must Provide Temporary Accommodation To Foreigners, Say Experts

'We will arrest and punish those who stole from the city'
The future of the Mashaba mayorship? "One thing I can assure residents of Johannesburg, and people around the world, is that when I took over this seat, one thing I promised to do was to understand the need to build a strong ship, because I need to put this ship in deep waters to sail for the next five years.

"During the sailing period the sea will be calm, but it must also be strong to enough to sail through any turbulence we may encounter. I will make sure from here, that we will arrest and punish all those who have been stealing from the city over many years under the ANC administration. But I am sure we will come through any challenges we may seal through."