03/05/2017 17:46 SAST | Updated 03/05/2017 17:47 SAST

How Herman Mashaba Is (Only Just) Living Up To His Election Pledges

The Johannesburg mayor promised a lot when he was elected.

Herman Mashaba.
Foto24 via Getty Images
Herman Mashaba.


In September last year, Herman Mashaba delivered his inaugural speech after 22 days as executive mayor of Johannesburg. During that address, he outlined his plans for the city, mentioning unemployment, economic growth, housing and infrastructure as some of his priorities.

Yesterday, Mashaba delivered his first State of the City Address -- and he stuck to his guns, albeit there should have been more bullets in his chamber.

The ever-confident Mashaba began his speech yesterday on an introspective tone, providing an "honest assessment" of the trials his municipality faces. But this was not done without accentuating where these problems apparently came from: the ANC.

In a subtle attack on Johannesburg's previous leadership, Mashaba painted a picture of a rocky road ahead, underlining issues of gross unemployment, crumbling infrastructure, housing backlogs and corruption that he "inherited" from his predecessors.

Making use of the shock-factor, we are told how 862,000 of the city's residents are unemployed, how a R170 billion unfunded gap has emerged in capital infrastructure and how an "inherited" housing backlog has resulted in 181 informal settlements mushrooming across the city.

This paves the way for Mashaba's famous ten-point plan.

When he was elected, Mashaba vowed to prioritise the poor, and according to his plan and the municipality's adjusted budget, which was passed in February, his office seems to be heading in the right direction.

"In our 2017/2018 proposed budget, we aim to ensure that a minimum of 60% of the city's capital expenditure is directed towards projects in traditionally poor and underserviced communities," Mashaba said yesterday.

Funding adjustments allowed for R546 million to be diverted to electrifying incomplete housing units, R56 million in total for Metro Bus and R49 million to Pikitup (not a bad figure from someone who threatened to tear the refuse management company apart last year).

Housing seemed to be Mashaba's biggest focus.

Three of his ten steps to a better city focussed solely on issues of housing: ranging from the production of an official, and audited, waiting list; completing halted housing projects and fast-tracking the delivery of title deeds to beneficiaries.

But it was not only about the poor. Mashaba has also taken steps in attempting to realise a rather ambitious minimum economic growth of 5% in the city by 2021. Although he does not expand on the 20 "key performance standards" identified to make this happen, a lot of attention has been given to SMMEs over the past nine months -- something that is said to continue into next year.

Yes, Mashaba seems to be lining up his priorities with his campaign promises. But I expected a little more. There was no mention of pre-emptive drought relief, urban gentrification, student housing and other significant issues on the city's table. How does Mashaba's municipality plan to "ensure the entire city embraces the environment of a new coalition government?" And this is the first step in the ten point plan.

With all the talk of Mashaba's administration "focusing on the forgotten people" -- which is an admirable undertaking -- other issues which also have the potential to cripple the city should not be overlooked.