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Everything you missed of Geordin Hill-Lewis’ first week in office as Cape Town mayor

Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis announced his Mayoral Committee at a press conference at the Council Chambers, Civic Centre. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis announced his Mayoral Committee at a press conference at the Council Chambers, Civic Centre. Photographer: Armand Hough/African News Agency(ANA)

Published Nov 26, 2021

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Cape Town - While time will ultimately tell if newly-elected City of Cape Town Mayor Geordin Hill-lewis will be able to deliver on the tall list of promises he made Capetonians in his inaugural council speech, titled a “City of Hope”, he has certainly hit the ground running during his first week in office.

His speech went on to touch on what Capetonians should expect, and he also called on residents to do their part in helping the City protect its infrastructure.

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“The government that has been elected by the people of Cape Town is gathered here today to publicly affirm that we will serve this city with a clear higher purpose.

“And that purpose can be summed up in one sentence: to restore hope in South Africa by turning Cape Town into living proof that we can roll back poverty, that we can overcome the long shadows of our past, and that our country can still realise the society dreamed of in the founding document of our democracy, the Constitution.

“A city more caring, more inclusive, more prosperous, more united, more respectful, more safe, and more free,” Hill-Lewis said.

“Our journey today must start with the recognition that more and more South Africans are feeling hopeless about the future.

“To the voters of Cape Town, and indeed of the whole country who have lost hope and stayed home on Election Day, I want to say that we have heard your message loud and clear.

“More of the same won’t cut it. Words are no longer enough. It is time for fresh thinking,” he said.

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“Even as we make more resources available to support vulnerable communities, we need residents to come forward and apply for our generous indigence programme.

“We need Capetonians to help us protect our infrastructure – all of us suffer when cables are stolen or drains are deliberately obstructed.

“We also need Capetonians to take pride in a cleaner city by helping to end the destructive practices of littering and illegal dumping,” the mayor said.

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“It is time to clean up Cape Town. Over the coming weeks and months, I would like every one of us in this Council to roll up our sleeves and join with committed residents and community organisations to spring clean our city.”

While his mayorship is only in its infancy, he has taken the baby steps to implement some of his what his council speech touched on.

On his first day in office, Hill-Lewis inspected sewage problems in Khayelitsha and Phoenix, where he was joined by city officials and community members.

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He added this would be the first of many such service delivery inspections, as part of his commitment to improving basic service delivery, particularly for the most vulnerable residents in our city.

His first weekend was also eventful as he made sure to participate in a few of the activities taking place in the City, visiting the Killarney race track on Saturday and the Absa Cape Town 12km run on Sunday.

He then started his week off with the announcement of his mayoral committee (mayco), the full story of which can be found on the Cape Argus, “WATCH: Mayor Geordin Hill-Lewis announces his Mayco for the City of Cape Town”.

His mayco may not end up staying its current format as he did state that he will take proposals for changes to this structure to the council soon, “Hill-Lewis seeks to propose a change to directorate structure after unveiling new-look mayco“.

One the same day he announced his Mayco, he did have his first official meeting as mayor with Western Cape Premier Alan Winde.

The meeting was a precursor to the first official MayCab meeting, where the Western Cape government Cabinet and the newly-elected City of Cape Town’s mayco will be meeting regularly to better coordinate joint efforts to ensure optimal delivery.

He also had a meeting with German political foundation Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung on Tuesday before he had his first in-depth budget meeting.

He was also surprised by a call by President Cyril Ramaphosa to congratulate him on being elected as City of Cape Town mayor while in a meeting discussing how to attract more international airlines to fly directly to Cape Town.

The president had a busy evening on the phone, as he called many other mayors across the country, “President Cyril Ramaphosa calls up new mayors to congratulate them on being elected”.

The mayor’s first council meeting since taking office last week proved to be a very eventful one - “WATCH: EFF councillor clashes with officers as chaos erupts in the City of Cape Town council meeting”.

EFF chief whip in the City council, Banzi Dambuza, tussled with law enforcement officers during the council meeting.

While the specific issue seemed to be over the counting of votes for the Integrated Development Plan (IDP), there was apparently more to the matter than what was on display, according to ANC caucus leader Xolani Sotashe.

“This fellow sneaked in an item, this item arrives 10pm at night, and they expect us the following day to apply our minds. A week ago, they adopted the rules. Now they are violating that very same rules because these rules are disadvantaging the opposition parties.”

The item was the nomination of a representative by the City council for the vacant seat on the University of Cape Town council.

However, the planning process for drafting of the New Term of Office Integrated Development was adopted, instead of the IDP itself.

Hill-Lewis had recommended Gareth van Onselen, who he called “a scion of one of South Africa’s most notable academic families and probably the most credible and respectable public intellectual in our country today”, for the position.

Traditionally, the seat on UCT would be taken by a City councillor. However, Van Onselen is not a councillor. He is an acclaimed political commentator and columnist.

Sotashe took issue with the manner in which the matter was handled and said that they did not feel like the matter was urgent enough to be added as a last-minute item on the council agenda.

“We don’t know the rationale why this Van Onselen guy was hand-picked. We can’t just take the mayor’s views as gospel.”

He said that they had not been given sufficient time to apply their minds to the agenda point.

“They are stifling the debate, and I was trying to put that across to him.”

When asked for his views on how’s the mayor’s first week has gone, Sotashe said that it is important to give Hill-Lewis the benefit of the doubt, but that he did make an observation during the council meeting.

"The chap is young and inexperienced, but he is well-educated. There’s a difference between being well-educated and experienced.

“He is still trying to find his feet, but you can’t buy experience. Seemingly, he is fumbling, and secondly, what is going to collapse his ambitions is the factions that is beginning to show within the DA.

“He is saying that he is going to do all this (within the City), and we appreciate the reaching out, but it is one thing to say something and another thing to do it,” Sotashe said.

“I must say that we will see, and we will give him his 100 days. What I can appreciate is that he kept his word on tackling the sewage. He went out and checked the problems in Khayelitsha and Phoenix, but now, we are expecting action.

“I think in the first week, he is trying to find his feet, and we are going to give him space to do what he has to do. We are going to be patient because he has promised that certain things are going to change within the first 100 days.”

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