/ 10 October 2016

​Bargain with the ANC to get the right budget, says ex-Jo’burg mayor Parks Tau

Parks Tau in an interview with 'City Press' on December 4 2012.
Parks Tau in an interview with 'City Press' on December 4 2012.

The City of Johannesburg’s recently upgraded credit ratings from ratings agencies Moody’s and Fitch will hang in the balance when the coalition council debates its five-year budget for the next financial year, former mayor Parks Tau has warned.

Last year United States-based rating agency Moody’s raised the city’s status to Baa2 and Aa1, which means high quality and low credit risk.

“On the basis of the previous budgets and the current one in place, that we passed, there isn’t any immediate risk to the credit ratings.

“[As for the next budget] it will be difficult … There has to be a lot of bargaining among all the parties to ensure that you get a budget that continues to maintain high levels of spending, because … Jo’burg has been renowned for raising loans and instruments in the debt capital markets to drive capital investment programme,” Tau told the Mail & Guardian.

He said political parties should tread carefully during the budget debate and the subsequent vote, adding that this time the ANC would wait for the coalition partners to lobby its councillors for their support.

“I’m sure it’s going to be an interesting experience for everybody. We ourselves, as the ANC, will be going in with [our] own set of priorities and programmes we will be lobbying [for] … You need to bargain with us to get our vote. I’m sure the other parties will come in with their own priorities,” he said.

Just over a month after he was ousted as mayor by a Democratic Alliance-led coalition council, Tau is a busy man. He seems more emboldened after being appointed interim chairperson of the South African Local Government Association (Salga) last week, and ahead of a presidential campaign at the United Cities and Local Government (UCLG) coming to a head this week. UCLG is an international body, which forges relationships with local governments globally and represents their interests.

Tau hasn’t, however, been too busy to raise concern over new mayor Herman Mashaba’s decision to remove the city’s bicycle lanes, questioning its logic – and the effect it would have 20 years down the line.

“I worry that the statements that surrounded removal of bicycle lanes tended to emphasise private cars. The reality is that we will build ourselves into congestion.

“I think there is room to review it. I suspect a lot of people look at it as a luxury – there is a risk that motorists think that there are no cyclists on the road, that this is a luxury of middle-class lifestyle cyclists. But in many ways, if you look at theories on urban mobility, the bicycle is looked at as the most equitable form of mobility,” he said.

These days Tau is based at the ANC’s Johannesburg regional headquarters. It was this region’s ANC branches that called for President Jacob Zuma to step down as party president earlier this year.

A large black and white portrait of former ANC president Oliver Tambo hangs above Tau’s desk in his office on the sixth floor of the regional headquarters.

For now, Tau is getting accustomed to his new role as leader of the opposition in council.

Commenting on the DA’s handover of houses in Soweto just a month after Mashaba was ushered into office, Tau said: “To almost pretend that within a matter of 60 days everything that happened is because of the new administration is a bit disingenuous. All we can say is, there is nothing wrong with acknowledging the work of the predecessors.”

He said there was an increased risk of projects not getting off the ground as a result of the change in council. Already the previous administration has failed to keep its promise to teach digital skills as a result.

“We signed an agreement with [technology giant] Microsoft to train a million people in Johannesburg in Microsoft skills over five years.

“The enrolment was supposed to start in September and the first cohort of trainees would have gone in by October. That hasn’t happened, so we will be putting pressure on the [City of Johannesburg] to continue that programme,” Tau said.