Opposition councillors branded Mayor Zandile Gumede’s inaugural speech a rerun of her predecessor’s. It was a cut and paste job, they said. They had heard the declarations and promises before, and took their potshots.
The more troubling observation, however, is that Gumede restated them because they had not yet been satisfactorily addressed. They were promises unmet.
Old priorities thus become new ones, a hangover, stretching the new mayor’s to-do list and reflecting something of a treadmill in various aspects of eThekwini’s administration. It was an implicit indictment of what has not gone before.
Gumede brimmed with intentions: clean streets, smooth roads, clean water and secure power, a city running like clockwork, clearing slums, housing the poor in sturdy homes, a wi-fi roll-out, and performance contracts for her executives.
She spoke also of new heights, fast-tracking development, and a corruption-free city.
This was part of the list of a new broom. Will she see it through? There is a vast difference between meaning well and doing well, particularly when confronted by the realities of running an enormously complex, R42-billion enterprise involving tens of thousands of employees and 3.5 million shareholders.
Then there is the abuse of Section 36, a tender process bypass; the rapid transport system being built; elusive waiting lists for housing; the unsettled billing system; full graveyards; a troubled bus system; and many more enormous challenges.
Gumede should take heed of her juniors in the ANC, the Youth League, in its review of the ANC’s slide in the local government elections.
The results were a sign of discontent at the ANC, it said. The lesson was that “if we do not deliver or delay delivery, this country will be led by counter-revolutionary forces”.
Gumede presides over one of four metros still dominated by the ANC. Comparisons with the four others not under the ANC’s control will be inevitable.
She has no time for a breather. Delivery is everything.