DA's Mashaba ready to take Jo'burg

The DA's mayoral candidate for Jo'burg, Herman Mashaba. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

The DA's mayoral candidate for Jo'burg, Herman Mashaba. (Madelene Cronje, M&G)

It’s a bit more than the morning after, and DA mayoral candidate Herman Mashaba was showing just a tad of remorse (though not too much) for his absence from the party’s manifesto launch on Saturday.

The life-long businessman was instead focusing his energy on convincing a gathering of 200-plus people at the Rosebank Primary School hall on a week night that he could not wait to walk up the steps into the Johannesburg mayor’s office in 101 days, after the local government elections.

With the ANC’s electoral support having dropped to 53.6% in last year’s general elections, and the DA’s standing at 30.8%, with some luck he stands a fraction of a chance to do just that.

Mashaba tells the audience - a mix of middle-class suburbanites and activists with DA T-shirts bused in from nearby Alexandra - that he would create more jobs by removing obstacles for business, and see to improving service delivery.

He also mocks the City of Johannesburg for having devoted an entire department to solving the city’s billing crisis.

Except Mashaba himself apparently doesn’t quite know how to get out of this morass either.

“We have already recognised that there is a huge issue with billing in Johannesburg which is costing the city millions and billions,” he said. (So has the ANC.)

“So, really for me right now I’m engaging with professionals so that really I understand what the issues are,” he said. (Quite possibly the ANC has been doing this for a few years now, too.)

Mashaba then goes on to indicate that he will be calling on experts from the metro where the opposition party has been governing for the past decade: “I obviously will be working with a team from Cape Town, and working with our local councillors that are really closer to these issues to really ensure that when we take over on the 4th [of August], that we are actually ready to do it.

“I can’t really see why it is an impossible task. If Cape Town and Midvaal can do it, I cannot see why Johannesburg can’t do it,” he said.

But what are the actual issues that broke the accounts?

Mashaba reverts to the familiar DA mantra of slamming jobs for comrades.

“Well for me the major thing is this cadre deployment, when you put people in who are not really capable to run major projects.

“So really for me it’s your number one and your biggest problem, you have to put in the right people and qualified people to run this project.”

Cadre deployment but also corruption are issues for him, he said. “People go to work not really to go and serve the city but to work for themselves.”

That’s great as a long-term solution, but should he get to wear the mayoral chain; will he fire people on August 4?

“We’re not really going to be firing people, no, we will do an audit of the staff and we will put people in positions where they are employed to,” he said.

“So I think we’ll get the right skills in the right (places) where they’re required.”

He said political connections would not get people jobs under the DA.

So even though he’s keen to step into Jo’burg mayor Parks Tau’s shoes, Mashaba acknowledged it would not happen overnight.

In his speech he warned: “We won’t be able to do all this in the first 100 days or even in the first 1000 days, but I promise that by 2021 this city will be transformed, and if I talk about that, it will be for the residents of the city as much as its appearance.”

The 56-year-old said even at his age he has learnt about “the very best in human nature, and a fair amount too about its shortcomings”.

He continued: “I don’t want to be mayor for the sake of holding office, I want to serve Johannesburg because of its potential, to make this city more inclusive, more green, more democratic, more prosperous, and more than that, truly a greater Johannesburg.”

The audience applauded.

“I stand before you as your humble servant, and I ask you to help me to make this possible,” the businessman with recent political aspirations said.

In the next 100 days, there are sure to be some controversies.

Mashaba this week came under fire from especially party critics for missing the DA manifesto launch, a rally with more than 20 000 people attending.

He was supposed to deliver a vote of thanks to party leader Mmusi Maimane, the keynote speaker and a failed 2011 Johannesburg mayoral candidate himself.

The images from the manifesto launch were “truly amazing”, Mashaba told the cheering audience, “and I know many of you were there”. More cheers.

Afterwards he excitedly told Mail & Guardian that, “as much as I was devastated” to miss the launch, he was lucky to be stuck in Hong Kong en route home from Beijing, where the internet connectivity is very good. “I only got to my hotel after two in the morning after fighting at the airport to get assistance. Eventually I accepted my fate and went to my hotel,” he said.

There he followed proceedings via tweets and Whatsapp messages from those who did attend, but it’s hard to tell how much FOMO (fear of missing out) he really suffered.

And did he follow the livestream of events on the party’s web site?

Mashaba just laughed and turned to the next person in the queue. It’s not clear whether he understood the question.

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