Former DA leader Tony Leon     Picture: Angus Scholtz
Former DA leader Tony Leon Picture: Angus Scholtz

Tony Leon firm runs Cape Town water campaign

By Yazeed Kamaldien Time of article published Jan 13, 2018

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Former DA leader Tony Leon and the party's former communications director Nick Clelland are being paid to run the City of Cape Town’s water crisis communications campaign.

The DA-led City of Cape Town’s media team on Friday confirmed the pair’s company, Resolve Communications, has been contracted to run the campaign.

“Resolve is a subcontractor to the City’s advertising agency, which was appointed through a tender process,” said the spokespersons.

“The City ensures that its contractors, in this case Hero, manage their subcontractors in the manner which accords with our policies, structures and good governance.

“Resolve is assisting the advertising agency to develop and run the communications strategy for the crisis.”

Resolve claims to do “lobbying and advocacy” for businesses, with the intention to “influence government policy, at all levels, to align with your business needs”.

“We place our clients - and their business needs - at the centre of the policy-making process,” the company website states.

One of its clients, according to Resolve, “faced an uncertain future with the introduction of new legislation which would have completely destroyed their future business prospects.”

Resolve then “ultimately assisted our client to renegotiate the legislation to their satisfaction”. Weekend Argus asked the City whether it was perhaps unethical to appoint prominent DA faces such as Leon to run its campaign.

The City responded: “Tony Leon is not involved in this contract at all.”

Leon is Resolve’s executive chairperson, though.

Officials added: “Nick Clelland has huge experience and expertise in developing communications strategies for government crises.”

City officials would not disclose how much Resolve was being paid to run the campaign. When asked whether it was appropriate to spend more money on an external contractor in its management of the water crisis - when residents are being asked to empty their pockets - officials did not offer much explaining.

“An essential part of surviving this drought is getting Capetonians to change their behaviour. Resolve is a vital part of that work,” they said.

Lauren Kent, speaking on behalf of Resolve, confirmed their involvement in the campaign. “Resolve forms part of a broad communications team, providing strategic advice to the City’s advertising agency on the crisis communications,” she said.

“We’ve been providing advice and expertise on the communications strategy since the end of 2017. Clelland is our project lead and he has 20 years' experience in strategic communications with particular expertise in government communications in South Africa and abroad.”

The City has been threatening residents with fines for wasting water and has proposed a new drought charge. If the levy is passed into law, residents would be expected to pay between 10% and 11% of their rates account monthly.

This was to raise cash for “expensive” drought-busting efforts such as “drilling abstraction boreholes into the Table Mountain Group Aquifer to supply the Steenbras catchment area”, said the City.

It would “help pay for vital emergency water projects and will primarily also be used to ensure the water operations of the City remain available for all”.

If the City proposal passes through council, the drought levy would be implemented from February 1 until June 30, 2021.

Weekend Argus

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