Cape Town - As South Africa suffers its worst economic downturn in years, two Western Cape mayors, soon after their inaugurations, unveiled grandiose visions to redress economic development and create jobs in their municipalities.
The DA’s Geordin Hill-Lewis has, in his first 100 days as mayor of one of South Africa's largest economic hubs, Cape Town, tried to bring the Covid-devastated city economy to life.
His counterpart in the Central Karoo District, Gayton McKenzie, a reformed convict, has been trying to turn the tide on corruption, spurred on by the lessons he learnt during his time behind bars for pulling off a dramatic bank heist in his juvenile years.
It’s imperative to note that McKenzie, leader of the Patriotic Alliance (PA), is yet to complete his first 100 days in office, while Hill-Lewis reached the milestone in February.
Both have an arduous task at hand, as the results of the 2021 Citizen Satisfaction Index laid bare how residents’ trust in local municipalities to deliver basic services has plunged to its lowest ebb since the index’s inception.
Of the eight metropolitan municipalities polled, it is perspicuous that they are falling far short of meeting citizens’ expectations, with the results being a direct reflection of the bleak and dire picture painted by numerous auditor-general and media reports of the beleaguered state of many municipalities across the country.
Cape Town recorded a score of 61.9 out of a possible 100. This is a four-point decline on its previous score of 66 in 2020. The district municipality headed by McKenzie was not part of the survey.
Hill-Lewis, 35, made several lofty pledges at the beginning of his term. Some of these included bringing an end to crippling power cuts and to create a myriad new jobs in an attempt to make the city the “easiest place to do business in Africa”.
To hammer the final nail in load shedding’s coffin, Hill-Lewis initiated a process through which 300MW of electricity supply would be procured from Independent Power Producers (IPP) as part of phase 1.
Furthermore, he set aside R34.5 million over a period of three years for the refurbishment of Steenbras to keep mitigating load shedding.
In an effort to make Cape Town safer, he deployed more law enforcement officers and top-of-the-range crime-fighting technology. The amount of R5.4 billion was earmarked for the 2022/23 safety budget, with funding for 230 more officers this year and R86m for CCTV cameras as well as new crime-fighting tech.
In an attempt to disrupt the status quo when it came to unemployment, Hill-Lewis made several bold promises, one with the intent of making the Mother City the biggest business hub in Africa.
The amount of R7.8bn was reserved to drive economic growth in the current fiscal year, R424m for investment promotion, R55m for work placement and skills and R53m to upgrade informal trading bays.
In an attempt to do clean dirty streets, public places and waterways, R8bn was raised. This included a R755m investment to quadruple sewer pipe replacement from 25km to 100km per year. To address urban waste, R650m was budgeted for more vehicles to improve refuse removal. A city-wide clean-up campaign was launched to boot.
When it came to public transport, Hill-Lewis had been predominantly vocal on the augmentation of the MyCiTi bus service. Under his watch, the MyCiTi N2 Express was reinstated. He is now pushing for the Metro South-East corridor roll-out to link Khayelitsha and Mitchells Plain with the Southern Suburbs.
The amount of R6.4bn was made available for transport and roads infrastructure over three years. To devolutionalise the passenger railway system leading to the city, a rail feasibility study was launched.
Hill-Lewis promised to do the basics better and take service delivery into the digital age, and upgrades are being made to the C3 system including new status levels, and plans towards a zero-rated City app for reporting servicing issues without incurring data costs.
Hill-Lewis also pushed for the release of state-owned land for the private sector to deliver more affordable housing
In addition, he directed an additional R10m to create 550 shelter beds to help people off the streets this winter, provided a range of services including substance abuse treatment support, job placement, reintegration and rehoming support. R142m will go to expanding City-run Safe Spaces over three years.
The lifestyle audit of his mayco team has also been completed.
When McKenzie took over as Central Karoo mayor, he promised that by the time he marks his first 100 days in office, the bucket toilet would be eradicated in the district municipality, and added that should he fail, he would resign.
McKenzie will mark his 100 days in office on July 22.
He has also vowed to turn the Central Karoo into the new Dubai by driving in investors and creating employment.
Among the projects that are starting to materialise is a bakery, the building of a community swimming pool, and a tar plant which will ensure that the municipality no longer has to order tar, to fix potholes, from Cape Town or George.
A Karoo community activist and PA member said McKenzie was well on the way to achieving those goals.
“I wanted to leave the PA. He made me change my mind. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt. It seems like I was wrong about this guy. And Gayton cannot be compared to any mayor. He is taking real action. That laaitie (Hill-Lewis) is still getting used to the title and chair he’s sitting on. Gayton has hit the ground running while that boykie is still wandering around deciding what to do next,” he said.
PA national executive committee (NEC) member Sydney James said McKenzie was “a giant”.
“(Hill-Lewis) does not come close; he has privilege, that’s all, otherwise Gayton is a giant. Let him sacrifice his salary, then we’ll talk. In order to change people’s lives, we should walk the talk.”
He added: “Politicians have been selling dreams and it’s time to cash in. Gayton is showing that if the will is there it can be done.”
The Central Karoo District includes Beaufort West, Laingsburg and Prince Albert local municipalities, after the party entered a coalition with the ANC. The district is currently under a financial recovery plan.
McKenzie is, according to his Twitter profile, “hard at work“ to turn the sinking ship around. Some of his tweets showed how he cleaned out the potholes by removing loose chunks of pavement and dirt. He also started a local bakery, which opened its doors last month.
McKenzie also posted pictures where he was busy preparing for the ablution system and said he intends changing the living conditions of the youth.
He is a man on a mission to close illegal shops, create jobs and improve the delivery of basic services.
McKenzie also paved the way for the community to invest in a local paint shop. He employed youth members to do the job.
McKenzie only has one goal and that is to ensure that the Karoo becomes the investment hub of South Africa.
Weekend Argus and Cape Times