Johannesburg mayor-in-waiting Parks Tau has promised the people of Johannesburg value for money when he takes over as the city council’s new political head.
“The shoes are too big but I am ready for the task,” said the softly spoken but confident Tau soon after he had been paraded by the Gauteng ANC leadership with the other mayoral candidates for Gauteng’s big metros at a media briefing in Johannesburg on Thursday.
Tau will replace ANC veteran Amos Masondo as mayor of South Africa’s largest city. Masondo has come under increasing fire, including within his own party, particularly over the city’s billing disaster. The ANC was set to retain control of all the metro councils in Gauteng, including Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekhuruleni, late on Thursday.
Paul Mashatile, ANC Gauteng chairperson and the arts and culture minister, told journalists at the briefing that preliminary results from various parts of the province showed the ANC had already won 75% of its municipal wards.
By 6pm on Thursday the ANC was claiming a 65% majority in Johannesburg.
Before this week’s election, it was expected that the Democratic Alliance would make significant gains in the Tshwane and Johannesburg metros, which have been plagued by service delivery problems. The DA has tried to use Johannesburg’s billing crisis in particular to garner support.
Tau was quick to acknowledge the negative impact the crisis had had on the ruling party’s local government election campaign.
“We could have done better in communicating the new [billing] system to the community. For as long as people are kept in the dark, you are bound to have the kind of problems that we have experienced. “No amount of management reports can solve this. For me, this is one of the important lessons,” said the 41-year-old Sowetan, who started working for the council at the age of 25.
He said that one of his chief priorities would be to inculcate a culture of “batho pele” [people first] in Johannesburg’s municipal government.
“It is important to focus on the effectiveness of our administration. For people to receive value for their money, you require an effective administration and an improved financial system.” Tau said that of equal importance for him was to restore the city to financial health. Municipal finances had taken a knock as a result of the recession and the 2010 Fifa World Cup, and hundreds of millions of rands were owed to the council for services.
“There was a period when we had a R500-million revenue shortfall because of money that was owed to us by the provincial government. We had two options — to reduce our expenditure or increase our tariffs. Neither was ideal.”
Although he said he wanted to bring a new style of leadership to the city, he had no immediate plans to change the strategic direction set by Masondo. “We have achieved a lot already. There will be changes of nuance. But the programme that we followed over the past few years will remain,” Tau said.
The other mayoral candidates paraded before the media were Mondli Gungubele, for the Ekurhuleni metro, and Sputla Ramokgopa for Tshwane. Both are already sitting mayors. Gungubele, a former Gauteng sports and recreation minister, was installed as a leader of the Tshwane council after his predecessor, Ntombi Mekgwe, was elevated to premier Nomvula Mokonyane’s cabinet as health minister.
Gungubele did not make a particularly favourable impression as a provincial minister and lost his job after the 2009 provincial election. He is widely seen as owing his mayoral candidacy to his close association with Mashatile.
Ramokgopa, former chief executive of the Johannesburg fresh produce market, took over in Tshwane after his predecessor, Gwen Ramokgopa, was moved to the national Cabinet.
Results for the Johannesburg metro came in more slowly than in the other metropolitan councils on Thursday. By 5.30pm, when 97% of results in Ekurhuleni and 75% of those in Tshwane had been announced, 75% of Johannesburg’s were still outstanding.
Just over 50.3% of the vote had gone to the DA. However, analysts pointed out that votes cast in Soweto and other major black residential areas had not been counted.
David Makhura, the ANC’s Gauteng secretary, said that party officials in areas around Gauteng, had assured them that the ANC would retain control of all the province’s major metros.
The Independent Electoral Commission’s Gauteng electoral officer, Simon Mamabolo, said that the ANC was leading in the Ekurhuleni metro with 60% of the poll. In Tshwane, the ANC was leading with 59%.
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