Johannesburg mayor Herman Mashaba – the first non-ANC mayor of the city since 1994 – is upbeat and adamant the DA’s ambitious plan for the city is working.
mayor Mashaba is seemingly untroubled by the ANC this week rating his first year in office ‘dismal’.
Since taking over the reigns, his office developed an ambitious 10-point plan initiated an open tender process, announced a controversial scheme to evict illegal tenant in the inner-city, tackled the start of a ‘pro-poor’ billing scheme, and promised to restore integrity to the mayor’s office.
Most of the mayor’s plans are still in their infancy, but how does Mashaba think he’s done so far? HuffPost SA spoke to the incumbent mayor this week who reflected on the challenges of transforming Africa’s economic capital and his vision going forward.
“For me, coming from the private sector, being a capitalist for over 35 years, and growing up and developing my business, I thought I was a high-key individual. But I’ve just realized that my 35 years have actually just been a holiday,” Mashaba said.
“I’ve realised that this is an almost impossible job, but at the same time it’s the type of job that I feel extremely privileged for, to get this opportunity to save my country. Bacause this project is not about me being a mayor, this is a project about saving South Africa.”
Mashaba had to step down as head of the Free Market Foundation, and his other private sector initiatives, to take over his new position — a move that required a major attitude adjustment, he says. “I think in life one thing over the years that I’ve grown to understand is to adapt. I’m the kind of person who adapts to whatever situation faces me, and this is really one of those situations. I have a high regard for our consitutional framework, but at the same time I have a challenge with municipal systems.”
He wasn’t welcome by the ANC members, he says. “They [remaining ANC executives] had extended the contracts of their 56 senior managers. So I had inherited the budget which was rejected by the voters, and then I still had to cooperate with a management that were trained to be cadres. You can imagine that I was obviously being told by them at the time that my administration would collapse by December. Those are the kinds of issues I had to battle with, but fortunately I’ve learnt to adapt.”
Have those same cadres now come to accept him?
“I think the majority of the people — the city employs almost 30,000 people — have come around, and I can assure you that 95 percent of them are great human beings. But there were these top structures, and I had to take difficult decisions to change the leadership, because I think human beings operate on the kind of leadership imposed on them,” he said.
“So, I had to deal with those who were not prepared to be part of my administration. But yes, obviously there are those who struggle, because they are staunch ANC supporters, that obviously would want to see the perpetual stealing of state resources, but I am getting rid of them, one by one.”
The hardest decision he’s had to make so far?
“I make hard decisions every day, but the most difficult process was to pass my adjustment budget because the ANC budget was voted out. Obviously you are not allowed to come out with new projects and adjustments, you aren’t allowed to make major changes. Fortunately enough my partners at the EFF came out with overwhelming support. Also, the passing of my first budget, which started on July 1, was one of the most difficult challenges. But once again, the EFF assisted me immensely again. They have been supportive, but not just supportive, their intellectual and physical support has been immeasurable to me.”