March Council meeting highlights

Council sat over a marathon two-day session last week to consider 112 reports. The majority of these were related to increases on rates and tariffs, which were detailed in our statement on 25 March. Other noteworthy reports are detailed below.

The DA opposed a report which claimed to accept a R90 million donation from Nike SA for an extension of their lease on two City-owned properties in Klipspruit, Soweto. This was originally granted as a lease to Nike SA for the development of a sports facility, known as Shapa Soweto. While we welcome the continued development of this facility, its acclaimed sports training programmes, and the planned integration with the new Klipspruit Sports Centre, this process goes entirely against the Municipal Finance Management Act which clearly stipulates how these land transactions are supposed to happen. The rule of law cannot be sacrificed for laziness
on the part of City officials, and Council must be made aware of all the terms and conditions of this lease.
– Cllr Belinda Kayser-Echeozonjoku, SMMC for Community Development.

The report for the completion of the Alexandra Automotive Hub and revitalisation of the Marlboro-Alexandra industrial precinct was approved with substantial input from the DA. We will now finally see the establishment of a steering committee to address the numerous challenges facing this precinct, such as abandoned factories, lack of law enforcement, illegal land occupation, and other factors which deter investment. The completion of
the Hub will pave the way for third parties to take over management of the facility and implement proper training programmes to enable growth in this important sector for emerging SMMEs.
– Cllr Dave Dewes, Section 79 Economic Development Member.

Seven years after the landmark Constitutional Court ruling the City’s new Informal Trading Policy was finally brought to Council. The DA opposed this policy as it differs substantially from the version which was widely accepted by all stakeholders in October 2019, and had it sent back to the Section 79 Committee. There was no accountability from the ANC as to why it had taken more than a year to come to Council. The draft policy lacks the collaborative management model put forward by trader associations, the ability of groups like City
Improvement Districts to manage informal trading in their areas, a more humane consequence system in place so that traders don’t have their goods confiscated for a first infraction, and for management of both street and market trading to be housed in one unit to ensure consistency. Informal traders are desperate for proper management and guidelines which work for all parties involved, but this should not come at the expense of conditions which have already been agreed upon.
– Cllr Bonile Fandesi, Section 79 Economic Development Member.

The much-awaited Traffic Pointsman report came to Council, but as usual did not follow due process and was lacking real details, so the DA voted to make sure that it went back to theĀ  Section 79 Committee so that all faults can be fixed. We support this programme as it brings much needed stability to traffic during rush hour and when traffic lights are out. However, any potential service provider has to show proof of securing R100 million in sponsorship over five years, and the City must be able to account for this to residents as the City and
therefore residents will be responsible for the cost of training the pointsmen. Residents deserve to have this programme in place and the pointsmen deserve fair and safe working conditions with appropriate compensation. – Cllr Michael Sun, SMMC for Public Safety

The DA opposed the approval of the Greater Lanseria Masterplan which was not properly presented nor did it have any of the details which are required for the approval of such a significant development. The DA supports this development but like the Gautrain promises to be a vanity project which connected individuals benefit from instead of residents who have to foot the bill. We do not know how much the City will have to pay towards the project, which threatens to take vital funds away from much-needed upgrades to the City’s existing, aging power and water networks. It will also require the City to lift the urban edge which is in place as
part of the City’s Spatial Development Framework, and for us to undermine the SDF requires real evidence. There is no indication of the feasibility for this project, public consultation, the readiness of the other three municipalities (one in another province) and their contribution to the project. Projects which boost economic development and create jobs are desperately needed, but public money is very limited and we cannot afford to waste it on vanity projects. – Cllr Reuben Masango, SMMC for Development Planning

A report to resurrect the Joburg Bakery Project was pushed through by the ANC despite objections from the DA. This failed project was originally started by the Tau administration under the umbrella of the so-called Blue Economy, and aimed to provide 50 co-operatives with containers of installed bakery equipment and supplies to run the operations. There was no project feasibility done and ridiculous items like imported mango flour were never going to be sustainable. It was clearly designed to secure votes in the 2016 election by providing a neverended financial lifeline to the politically-connected co-operatives. The DA Administration terminated the project and initiated a forensic investigation into the co-operatives. Now the ANC are about to spend R14.3 million on a project where only six of the 18 beneficiaries were revealed to be operational. – Cllr Mpho Phalatse, Section 79 Health and Social Development Member

Council was requested to approve the acting arrangement of the Executive Director of Community Development. This despite the fact that the acting arrangement had already expired. The real story behind the scenes was that Council had approved the appointment of Philisiwe Tau (the wife of Parks Tau) for the position, despite her benefitting from financial deals with Regiments Capital which in turn secured lucrative contracts with the City through Parks Tau and the current mayor, Geoff Makhubo. The DA naturally opposed her
appointment. Philisiwe Tau however did not start on 1 December and is still not in the position. It is alleged that the previous City Manager refused to accede to her demands for an inflated salary – a conflict which contributed to City Manager’s early exit through a ‘negotiated settlement’. The acting Executive Director was only fourth on the list of candidates, despite his excellent performance in the position. – Cllr Nonhlanhla Sifumba, Section 79 Community Development Member