The Democratic Alliance’s Helen Zille beat the African National Congress’s Nomaindia Mfeketo by 106 to 103 votes in a nail-biting contest to become Cape Town’s new mayor. She answered 10 tough questions from Marianne Merten.
1. Cape Town’s power balance remains precarious. How will you deal with this?
Our first order of business will be to stabilise the coalition. If we can make the government work with the kind of political combination that we’ve got, it will be a good contribution to democracy.
Our joint administration [with six small parties] will work in the interest of all residents, irrespective of whether they voted for our parties. We will act to create opportunities and security for the most vulnerable, and promote policies and practices that ensure openness and transparency.
2. Will you sack ANC administration appointees like city manager Wallace Mgoqi?
He was asked to resign as the municipal electoral officer because he was so clearly campaigning for the ANC in word and deed. That is inappropriate for the city manager, who is supposed to serve all the people and is paid by all the ratepayers.
It was inappropriate of mayor Mfeketo to renew his contract for a year just before it expired on February 28. That [extension] must still be ratified by the full council.
3. And the city’s 10 senior executives, the Ikhwezi (morning star)?
I’ve made it very clear there won’t be any political purges or revenge firings. It’s not an issue to me who appointed people to their position, or what people’s private political convictions are. It is very important to me that people earn their salaries, that they go beyond the call of duty and that they are prepared to implement our policies.
4. How will you make Africans feel part of the city?
We [the DA] are the most non-racial party in Cape Town. I personally have worked in the field from Langa to Khayelitsha for 25 years.
The ANC plays the race card and … can say that if the DA gets in, black people will suffer. Can you imagine if we reversed it and said, for example, ‘If you vote for the ANC they will drive you [whites] into the sea’? It would be considered outrageous, rightly so.
5. What are the lessons of DA rule in Cape Town from December 2000 to October 2002?
We allowed personalities [mayors Peter Marais and Gerald Morkel] to become the focus of internal divisions. We could not allow that to happen again; we have a very tough task of making a diverse coalition work.
6. How will you deal with the city’s disruptive and costly power cuts?
I would very much like to call a full commission of inquiry to get to the root of this … Look, there are many players that have to come together to resolve this one. We have to align our forces and work out how to get through the winter.
7. And solutions to the housing crisis?
With the current policy we are never going to solve the housing crisis. We are looking at building between 9 000 and 11 000 houses if we spend all our [R350-million] budget properly. Housing is a national and provincial competency. We must get a clear policy position, be honest about it and fund it appropriately. We can’t promise people houses when we know there isn’t a budget.
8. You said overcoming poverty requires ‘hard, hard work”. Outline some concrete steps.
It is a major collective effort. It starts in every single family with parents choosing the number of children they want to have … It starts with a government that is totally committed to giving excellent education opportunities to all. A basic income grant, indigent policy … rates rebates, free basic services, all of those are crucial opportunities that government gives to the poor. It is the government’s responsibility to give you [the people] an opportunity; it is your responsibility to use that opportunity.
9. Will defections during the floor-crossing period due next year end the diversity you say voters want in council?
Floor-crossing is a travesty of democracy. It enables the party with the most jobs and patronage to bribe people … I’m very encouraged by how the smaller parties stood firm [during Wednesday’s inaugural council meeting]. The pressure on them was unbelievable … they didn’t buckle. They were true to the voters.
10. How do you run a DA city in an ANC province?
By working with the province. I have no intention of having hostile relationships with anybody.