Cape Town - While it may sound like applauding fish for swimming, Central Karoo mayor Gayton McKenzie in the Western Cape and his uMngeni counterpart Christopher Pappas in KwaZulu-Natal have breathed new life into municipalities whose fates were following in the footsteps of hundreds of councils that have collapsed.
One just has to look at their social media pages to see how these two mayors have taken the “bull” by the horns, and have their feet on the ground.
While some see it as a PR exercise, it’s what many residents in the country have long been yearning for, especially under successive ANC administrations.
But the results speak for themselves. For starters, McKenzie, who is not ashamed of being an ex-convict, has repeatedly indicated that he has not used a cent of the municipality’s funds in the first 100 days of his tenure. He does not plan to do so any time soon.
He uses his own vehicle, cellphone and bodyguard – something we rarely hear of in South African politics.
While we’re often told about the “commitments” municipalities make, McKenzie has championed the revival of abandoned factories, including a bakery and a tar manufacturing plant in the small town. Imagine the spinoffs if many of our municipalities followed the same approach.
While fear of corruption gripped South Africans following the floods in KZN, Pappas was applauded for the way he handled rebuilding the municipality after storms and heavy rainfall left a trail of destruction.
The list of maintained and repaired roads and other infrastructure since he took office in November is quite lengthy. The emerging theme from these mayors is quite a simple one: getting the basics right.
The latest auditor-general report paints yet another bleak picture of the country’s municipalities. Billions of rand are spent on consultants with no visible returns. The A-G reports that municipalities spent R1.2 billion on consultants in the 2021/2021 financial year while paying finance department staff R10.4bn.
South Africa cannot prosper if its municipalities continue to be ghost towns and havens for criminality.
This is where job creation, development and service delivery should be top of the agenda.
That is why we take off our hats to McKenzie and Pappas for showing their colleagues the way.