Multi-party coalitions are the future. As we head into our toughest winter yet since the dawn of our democracy, it is becoming ever clearer that there will be no progress or prosperity while the ANC governs South Africa. Unemployment is at a record high 46% including those who have given up looking for work; prices of essential goods are set to skyrocket with no plan to shield the poor; and our electricity grid is on the brink of total collapse.
With South Africa’s political landscape as fragmented as it is, a multi-party national governing coalition is the only way to reverse our current relentless slide to state failure. That’s why so much rests on the multi-party coalitions running the three Gauteng metros – Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni.
They are test centres ahead of the 2024 general election. If they can show real progress over the next two years towards building capable, honest, pro-poor, service-delivery-driven governments, they will build public confidence in the ability of a multi-party national government to take South Africa forward in 2024.
So it is great to be able to report that, despite being a minority government, the multi-party coalition that has run Ekurhuleni since December last year has held, passed an adjustment budget for the remainder of the financial year, and is making meaningful progress on multiple fronts.
The coalition consists of the DA, Action SA, Freedom Front Plus, Inkatha Freedom Party, African Christian Democratic Party, Congress of the People, and Patriotic Alliance. Working together, these 7 parties are turning the ship. The clearest evidence of this came last month when the City’s credit rating was raised two notches from negative to stable.
This was after the coalition adjusted its medium term budget for greater efficiency and established systems to strengthen Ekurhuleni’s financial position and root out the scourge of fraud and corruption in the metro.
But the coalition cannot take all the credit for this. Ekurhuleni is lucky to have had an experienced and diligent City Manager since 2016, Dr Imogen Mashazi, who was re-appointed last month for another five years.
Together with Dr Mashazi, the coalition is taking a pro-poor, back-to-basics approach, focusing on the things that matter most to residents: reliable electricity and water, public transport, waste management, housing, safety and financial stability.
This has already made some positive impact on the lives of residents and laid the foundation for much more to come. The City faces massive infrastructure maintenance backlogs, but just the first few months in office has shown that Ekurhuleni citizens can expect steady, meaningful, measurable progress over the coming years.
Electricity: The coalition is confident of ensuring a reliable and expanded electricity supply well before the end of this political term. It recently appointed 47 Private Power Producers to build and sell electricity direct to the city from 2024 onwards. To finance the replacement and expansion of backbone infrastructure at a rate of at least 10km of cables per year, the City has committed to a 40% increase in capital expenditure in the next financial year and an average 12% thereafter.
Water: By June 2023, nine additional water towers and reservoirs will have been constructed, in addition to the nine projects being completed by the end of this financial year. This is to counter the metro’s all-too-frequent water outages caused by drops in pressure in supply from Rand Water due to Eskom outages. Last month, Ekurhuleni won six Green Drop awards for excellence in wastewater treatment plant operation. This year, the City is on track to replace 8000 water meters and replace or upgrade sewer pipes across the city.
Stormwater drainage: During its first 100 days, the coalition cleared and maintained 2100 stormwater drains and are on track to well exceed performance of prior financial years.
Potholes: In its first 100 days, the City patched 29 000m² of road and has reallocated savings from the salary bill to try to get on top of massive inherited backlogs.
Public transport: The Harambee Bus Rapid Transport Network running from Thembisa via Kempton Park to OR Tambo International Airport will be fully operational, and three public transport facilities will be refurbished, in the coming financial year.
Waste management: The City is rehabilitating infested waterbodies, targeting the protection of wetlands, reopening two inoperative landfill sites, introducing waste separation at source at all municipal buildings, and dealing with illegal dumping around the city. Maintenance activities such as grass cutting have increased significantly, and clean-ups have started in the CBD to entice businesses back, with many other waste initiatives underway.
Safety: In January this year, the City launched Operation Buya Mthetho in which the Ekurhuleni Metro Police Department (EPMD) will work with other law enforcement agencies to address the many crimes plaguing the City. In the next financial year, the EMPD will deploy an additional 480 municipal police officers to improve policy visibility and by-law compliance.
Financial stability: Cash on hand has improved to a 21-day reserve from just a 14-days reserve and the metro is working to meet National Treasury’s 30-day minimum requirements. Spending on non-service-delivery areas has been reigned in to reverse the depleted state in which the coalition found the city’s finances. And audit systems have been put in place to build an honest administration.
While Ekurhuleni’s multi-party coalition is fully aware of the challenges and the mammoth task ahead, the 7 parties are working together to build a capable, honest administration that can take the metro forward. In doing so, they are showing the nation that a multi-party national governing coalition is a realistic and hopeful option for South Africa post 2024.