Will the Democratic Alliance's blueprint work in their newly-won metros?

Solidarity: Cape Town has a fairly good record for financial management, but it still faces shortcomings when it comes to service delivery. (Photo: David Harrison)

Solidarity: Cape Town has a fairly good record for financial management, but it still faces shortcomings when it comes to service delivery. (Photo: David Harrison)

As the Democratic Alliance takes to the seats of power once occupied by ANC councillors in three metros, its newly elected mayors have reiterated the party’s key promises: to quash corruption, create jobs and improve service delivery.

To tackle these issues, as was stated by mayor Athol Trollip in Nelson Mandela Bay in his inauguration speech, the party will draw on its successes in its other municipalities. These include the City of Cape Town, which it has run for a decade, and the Midvaal municipality in Gauteng, where it has had a majority since 2001.

In their inauguration speeches this week, the new mayors of Tshwane (Solly Msimanga) and Nelson Mandela Bay reiterated the promises made as far back as 2009 when Helen Zille delivered her first speech as Western Cape premier in 2009.

Although the elections outcome in the three metros came as a surprise to many, the DA had positioned itself for victory. This week, the party’s federal executive chairperson, James Selfe, disclosed that the party, before the elections, had quietly trained 150 people to help run the municipalities the party anticipated it would gain.
It also plans to send officials to the South African Local Government Association and the national treasury for training, he said.

Cape Town and Midvaal have a fairly good record for financial management, as reflected in the auditor general’s annual reports, and for combating corruption, and both have some of the better employment rates in the country.

But the two still face shortcomings in matters of service delivery. Cape Town’s infamous “poo protests” highlighted slow delivery of sanitation to residents. In Midvaal, the DA local council is accused by the ANC opposition of prioritising affluent white areas “while poor black people live in squalid conditions in horse stables and shacks”.

The DA may have grand plans to apply the existing blueprints to their newly won municipalities but it may not be easy to do so, said Ebrahim Fakir, a political analyst at the Electoral Institute for the Sustainability of Democracy in Africa.

The DA does not have a standing coalition in every municipality and so will have to get a majority vote on every issue, he said. He also warned that the DA’s performance in some municipalities would not give a general indication of its ability to govern.

Karen Heese, an economist at Municipal IQ, said when looking at the DA’s track record, most DA-run councils during the last term were in the Western Cape, which is better resourced and often with fewer backlogs typically than municipalities elsewhere.

Clamping down on corruption and mismanagement is one of the first things the DA can do, political economist Ralph Mathekga said.

“I think the bar is quite low regarding municipalities in general when it comes to expectations. If you can eliminate corruption and strengthen integrity, like in the City of Cape Town, you can punt that as a success,” he said. “If you clamp down on corruption, just doing that and without being innovative, you will free up a lot of money … We are still at the level of just getting the basics right.”

The credit ratings agencies also base part of their rating on financial management, with the most substantial indicator being the auditor general’s report, said Mathekga. The latest report gives the City of Cape Town a clean audit but not the City of Johannesburg (See “Corruption and management — the facts”). The ratings agency Moody’s has, however, awarded both municipalities the highest global rating (Baa2).

Job creation

Alan Winde, the MEC for economic opportunities in the Western Cape, said growth and job creation have been the priority of the Western Cape government since 2009. “Our intensive focus on achieving this goal has shown results,” he said.

According to figures released by Statistics South Africa, the jobs growth rate was 9.7% in the Western Cape, 4.6% nationally and 4.3% in Gauteng.

In the fourth quarter of last year, Cape Town had an official unemployment rate of 20.5%, whereas it was 25.5% nationally. Tshwane had an official unemployment rate of 23.4%, Johannesburg 27.9% and Nelson Mandela Bay 30.6%. The metro with the lowest official employment rate was the ANC-run eThekwini with 15.9%, which was 43% in 2001.

The Midvaal local municipality said it has the lowest unemployment rate in Gauteng — 12%.  The unemployment rate was 22.8% in 2001 when the DA took over. “The strategy for creating employment in Midvaal has been to concentrate on attracting investment into the area,” said the municipal spokesperson, Aaliyah Dangor.

Service delivery

“It is hard to make any definitive assessment of relative success given that the last census was in 2011 but I don’t think that Cape Town can, on delivery grounds, show that it had a superior solution to issues like sanitation,” Heese said.

According to Municipal IQ, the Western Cape accounted for 14% of the country’ service delivery protests for the 2015 year. It was trumped by Gauteng’s 15%, KwaZulu-Natal’s 17% and the Eastern Cape’s 20%.

In Cape Town, as measured from 2001 and the last census in 2011, access to electricity went from 88.8% to 94%. Piped water inside dwellings went from 69.4% to 75%. Weekly refuse removal stayed the same at 94.3%. Flush toilets connected to sewerage went from 85.4% to 88.2%.

In these same period, in Midvaal, access to sanitation increased from 73% to 94%. Access to water went from 90% to 98%. Access to refuse removal increased from 58% to 84% and access to electricity from 68% to 89%.

Even so, in June this year, protesting residents in Midvaal demanded that the mayor must address several issues, including water, sanitation and housing.

Themba Ndaba, the ANC spokesperson for the Sedibeng region under which Midvaal falls, said the ANC was concerned about the DA’s failure to provide the poor residents of the Midvaal with basic services.

He said the DA has proved that it is a “racist, pro-capitalist, imperialist political party”, and infuses these segregationist policies in its service delivery programmes in all the municipalities and metros where it governs. While the council continues to “splurge on affluent areas”, some areas have limited or no access to basic services.

“Other challenges facing the residents of Midvaal local municipality include alcohol and substance abuse, unemployment, lack of or poor stormwater and drainage systems, shortage of high schools, clinics and hospitals and a poor public transport system,” Ndaba said.

The DA has continually battled accusations that poorer areas are underserviced in their municipalities. The party claimed that, in the 2014-2015 financial year, Cape Town spent 67% of its budget in poor communities, but Africa Check found a number of departments were not included in this calculation. When they were, pro-poor spending dropped to 49.4%.

That DA service delivery to the poor is not all it is chalked up to be is more an issue of perception, and one of the past, Mathekga said.

“There were criticisms of what they were doing in black neighbourhoods, but the ANC doesn’t even have the credibility to raise these kinds of questions anymore,” he said.

What blueprints the DA can take from its other municipalities are subject to a number of unknowns, Fakir said. “Can they rely on the existing bureaucracy to buy into a DA programme, or will they be obstructionist?”

In councils, the ANC has experience in governing portfolios and could use their knowledge of the rules of council to their advantage to frustrate and delay processes, he said.

Although the Economic Freedom Fighters voted with the DA to elect a mayoral candidate in Tshwane and Johannesburg, there is no standing coalition. “The EFF have said they will deliberate on an issue-by-issue basis,” said Fakir. “It could mean stronger oversight, or it could cause excessive delays.

“If the DA is clever it will try to moderate some of its own manifesto issues and negotiate those with the EFF to speed up key decisions,” Fakir said. “It also depends on the game the EFF is playing. And we don’t know what that is.” 

Corruption and mismanagement — the facts

The Western Cape received the most clean audits by far — 22 municipalities out of 30, according to the auditor general’s Municipal Financial Management Act report for 2014-2015.

The City of Cape Town has received clean audits for the past 12 years, and 21 Democratic Alliance-run municipalities achieved a clean audit, though five did not.

In Gauteng, Midvaal was one of four municipalities to receive a clean audit. The Midvaal municipality has, for the past two consecutive years, achieved a clean audit and had 11 clean audits since taking power in 2001. It was ranked the top municipality in Gauteng in the annual Municipal Financial Sustainability Index (MFSI).

The ANC-run Ekhuruleni also received a clean audit.

Johannesburg and Tshwane were rated financially qualified with findings. Nelson Mandela Bay, now under DA control, was financially unqualified with findings, and was the biggest culprit for fruitless and wasteful expenditure for the year, and the second-largest contributor (R1.3-billion) to irregular expenditure. Tshwane was the third worst metro for irregular spending, amounting to R1.1-billion.

According to Ratings Afrika’s annually published MFSI, the Western Cape scored an average of 60 out of a possible 100 points, making it “the highest-scoring province and it is also the province that has improved the most over the last five years,” the report said. It added that “it is the only province whose governance practices can be considered to be sound”.

KwaZulu-Natal scored on average 59 and Gauteng scored 30. Of the metros, Cape Town scored the highest with 75, ANC-run Ekurhuleni fared well with 70, Johannesburg scored a poor 37 and Tshwane score the lowest with 24.

“Ironically, the metros with the lowest scores, Johannesburg with 37 and Tshwane with only 24, are the wealthiest municipalities in the country as measured by their household income, which is more than 170% of the national average. This reflects severe deficiencies in their budgeting practices and financial discipline,” the Ratings Afrika report said.

But credit rating agencies such as Moody’s have given the City of Cape Town and the City of Johannesburg high-quality ratings. — Lisa Steyn

Lisa Steyn

Lisa Steyn

Lisa Steyn is a business reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She holds a master's degree in journalism and media studies from Wits University. Her areas of interest range from energy and mining to financial services and telecommunication. When she is not poring over annual reports, Lisa can usually be found pottering about the kitchen. Read more from Lisa Steyn

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