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Cape Town - Cape Town mayor Patricia de Lille says the shake-up of her top political leadership has allowed her to introduce the “diverse leadership” needed to move the city forward.
“I am confident that this newly constituted mayoral committee team is the right blend of youth and experience, knowledge and expertise, and that it will help us to continue to deliver world-class standards of city governance,” she said.
But council insiders have spoken up about concerns that the changes may have more to do with political ideology than experience or expertise.
Although the Independent Democrats ceased to exist on the eve of the May 7 elections as the party had been absorbed by the DA, it is understood that fault lines between the two parties remain evident in the mayoral committee. There’s talk of an “unhappy marriage between the ID and the DA” within the committee.
Paul Boughey, De Lille’s chief of staff, said: “These claims, made by nameless sources, are simply nonsensical… all DA systems and processes were followed in the appointment process of the new mayoral committee. Further, there are no ID councillors, all councillors elected in 2011 were elected as DA councillors.”
De Lille’s reshuffle comes after the elections, after which two councillors - Tandeka Gqada and Lungiswa James - move to the National Assembly as MPs. Gqada, who headed the human settlements portfolio, has been succeeded by Siyabulela Mamkeli.
De Lille said Mamkeli had served as a DA councillor “with distinction” in numerous roles. These included portfolio committee chair of utility services and as subcouncil chair.
DA councillor Benedicta van Minnen takes over health from James.
De Lille said that Van Minnen’s “significant analytical skills and determination” would stand her in good stead in the health portfolio.
There was speculation before the elections that Van Minnen, who has also been a member of the safety and security portfolio committee, would move into this position on the mayoral committee as well, to free up JP Smith to tackle housing. Van Minnen was initially on the DA’s candidate list for the provincial government, but her name was removed from the final list.
Perhaps the most significant change has been the replacement of Demetri Qually, the mayoral committee member for corporate services, by Xanthea Limberg. Qually has been a councillor since the 1990s and has driven the city’s highly successful broadband project, among other policies. De Lille described Limberg as “one of the council’s outstanding young leaders”.
In 2009, Limberg was listed as one of the ID’s top 10 candidates on the national election list. She started in politics as an intern for the ID in its parliamentary office. She was head of the city’s economic, environment and spatial planning portfolio committee and was at the forefront of the city’s effort to deal with its sustainable energy needs, said De Lille.
De Lille emphasised that the omission of Qually from her top team was to strengthen the city’s relationship with the SA Local Government Association (Salga).
“Qually will now be able to devote more time and energy to his strategic role as the Western Cape chairman of Salga - a critical grouping of municipalities that helps us interface with our colleagues across the country to share best practice with one another.”
Another newcomer is Johan van der Merwe, who will take over economic, environmental and spatial planning from Garreth Bloor, who is shifting to the tourism portfolio.
De Lille said that Van der Merwe, who was head of the finance portfolio committee, had occupied many leadership positions in the council. “He has served on numerous boards and was instrumental in devising a new spatial approach to the greater Tygerberg region’s urban regeneration in the formation of the Greater Tygerberg Partnership.”
Bloor’s shift to tourism comes after the defection of Grant Pascoe in March to the ANC. Bloor was appointed mayoral committee member of economic, environmental and spatial planning in February after serving as chair of this committee, and played a key role in the drafting of the city’s by-law on trading hours for liquor outlets.
Some portfolios remain unchanged.
Brett Herron retains his transport portfolio. He has been instrumental in the rollout of the MyCiti bus service and the city has won several awards, including international recognition for the service’s universal accessibility and for its ticketing scheme.
Belinda Walker will carry on as mayoral committee member for community services and special projects. She had a stint as deputy mayor in 2001 and has served as head of the corporate services portfolio committee.
Safety and security will remain in the hands of JP Smith, who has deployed specialised units - such as the Ghost Squad and the drug task team - with great success.
His directorate allocated R1.4 million this year to the neighbourhood watch programme to “actively tackle crime generators”. About 4 000 people are working across six departments in the safety and security directorate.
Ernest Sonnenberg stays on as mayoral committee member for utility services.
There’s been no change to social development and early childhood development, still be managed by Suzette Little. Her department has made R280 000 available in aid for NPOs wanting to increase their capacity ahead of winter as part of the city’s winter programme for street people.
Ian Neilson continues his uninterrupted run as a mayoral committee member since the DA took over the city eight years ago.
Neilson has been the city’s deputy mayor since 2009. Under his leadership, the city has received consecutive clean audits from the auditor-general. He also headed the 2010 World Cup committee.
Neilson has been juggling three roles - including acting head of tourism, events and marketing since March when Pascoe left the council.